If you live in the Austin area and have noticed a dramatic increase in the region’s homeless population, you’re not imagining things. A recent survey conducted by Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) revels a 17 percent increase of homelessness in the past year. Part of this influx is attributable to the homeless-friendly climate found in Austin and nearby areas, where the economically disadvantaged can get a hot meal and find agreeable weather much easier than in other areas of the United States. Some shelters are serving lunch to an average of 300 homeless per day, many of whom are hoping to get a fresh start in Austin and get back on their feet.
Unfortunately, however, there is a prodigious and increasing culture of addiction throughout the city’s steadily rising homeless contingent. The same ECHO report that showed the overall increase also showed that 60 percent of Austin’s homeless have reported a drug or alcohol problem and approximately 80 percent were unemployed. A decidedly progressive town, homeless addicts are liable to find more compassion and treatment options in Austin than many other areas of Texas or the rest of the country. Addiction and homelessness have always been closely linked, with nearly 40 percent of American homeless abusing alcohol while just over a quarter reportedly abuse drugs.