Drug use on the rise among Maine's homeless
PORTLAND (WGME) – While there’s no clear path to homelessness those who work in the human services industry say there are indicators. They say there’s no denying the connected nature of homelessness and drug use.
“We’re definitely seeing a huge rise in opiate use, synthetic drugs in general,” Rob Parritt, the Oxford Street shelter manager said. “Over the summer we had a huge problem with spice which is kind of like synthetic marijuana.”
According to the Oxford Street shelter’s year end reports there’s been a significant spike in shelter clients specifying a substance abuse problem. Last year 84 percent of shelter clients self-reported having one, up from only 39 percent five years previous.
Milestone is a non-profit agency in Portland which specifically services those battling substance abuse. The agency’s director Bob Fowler says there’s a “significant overlap between addiction and homelessness.” In addition to the 41 bed emergency shelter in Milestone’s basement, the agency also runs a 16 bed medically assisted detox center. Fowler says the signs of the need can be found in the number of people they have to turn away daily.
“The services that we are able to offer are outstripped by the demand,” Fowler said. “On any given day the numbers can vary but it’s not unusual to turn away 10 people a day because the beds are full.”
Fowler says even the people who get into and through detox have an uphill battle if they have no place to call home.
“Often times people who are homeless who come to our detox are discharged back to homelessness or back to the unstable living situation they might have come from,” Fowler said. “In those circumstances it is very likely that person will cycle back and show up at the front door again for the detox.”