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Homeless women more vulnerable to violence, mental health and substance abuse issues
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Homeless women more vulnerable to violence, mental health and substance abuse issues

Given the small percentage of homeless women living alone, the specific needs of these unaccompanied women are often overlooked. While dozens of reports highlighting violence against homeless women have been published, a recent report highlighted the experiences, struggles and needs of homeless women.

The report by the Women’s Task Force of the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) found homeless women vulnerable to a high incidence of violence both throughout their lifetime as well as throughout the period of homelessness. The report said that three out of four women had a history of violence, with nearly one-third of the surveyed women indicating violence to be the cause of their homelessness or housing instability.

For the report, detailed interviews were conducted with 434 women between Aug. 26, 2017 and Sep. 8, 2017. Three-quarters were African American women and 72 percent had lived without housing for more than a year or had lost their housing at least four times in last three years. As per the report, while these women were homeless, they were exposed to continued violence, substance use and mental health disorders. The report also found over half of the responders to have experienced at least one type of violence or an experience that threatened their safety.

Link between homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse

Linked to substance abuse and mental illnesses in adulthood, childhood trauma and abuse present further obstacles to the sufferers in acquiring and maintaining safe, stable housing. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) 2016, of the individuals experiencing homelessness, approximately 202,297 individuals were found to suffer from a severe mental illness or a chronic alcohol and/or drug use disorder.

As per the recent ICH report, nearly 31 percent of the surveyed population reported current or past substance use. The report also found that while 87 percent of women had a history of substance abuse, who were also the survivors of physical, emotional or sexual abuse by a parent/guardian or intimate partner/spouse, 41 percent were not receiving any treatment. Of those who did, group meetings and regular appointment with a therapist became their primary need of staying sober.

Additionally, 72 percent of the surveyed population self-reported experiencing some form of mental health disorder with only 56 percent having diagnosed by a health care professional. The report also showed high prevalence of physical and/or sexual abuse by a parent/guardian or intimate partner/spouse among those diagnosed with a mental health issue.

Integrated treatment for lasting recovery

A complex diagnosis, dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders is simultaneously suffering from some form of mental illness and substance use problem. Though symptoms of co-occurring disorders vary from person to person, the best treatment is all about an integrated approach, treating both the disorders simultaneously. When not treated completely or inadequately, the illness can resurface, leading to a relapse.

Sovereign Health provides specialized care to trauma and abuse survivors. Our dual diagnosis rehabilitation programs Phoenix facility offers patients an integrated treatment for multiple mental health disorders and substance abuse helping them rebuild their lives. What sets us apart is our multidisciplinary approach that helps create individualized treatment plans tailor-made to suit the needs of each patient. For more information on our treatment programs or to locate the finest dual diagnosis treatment centers for women in Arizona, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with our representative.

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