One of the most tragic elements of substance addiction is experienced by those on the outside looking in. They are the ones who watch as the one they love gets pulled deeper into an addiction. They are the ones who try to help only to have their efforts fail. They are the ones who end up sacrificing just to give the addicted person they love one more shot to pull their lives together. These experiences are never more profound or heartbreaking than when an addicted person becomes homeless.

If your loved one is in crisis, if they have lost everything due to their addiction and are now homeless, there are ways you can help. But keep in mind that you can’t make someone accept help, even if it would be best for them.

Here are some ways you can get help for the homeless in your family.

  • Set boundaries. It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways you can help your homeless loved one is to set firm boundaries. Decide ahead of time what kind of help you will give and for how long. If you don’t, you will find yourself in over your head before you know it, and unable to help anyone.
  • Do not enable. If an addiction has progressed to the point where anything you provide will reduce the consequences that must follow from the drug use, then reconsider providing those things. You may be terrified that your loved one is not safe, or is hungry or cold, but your resources will not go to food or shelter. They will go to drugs. Do not support someone trying to get out of the consequences of their actions.
  • Get help…for yourself. You are likely to experience intense anxiety and worry, and you are likely to give in and help your addicted loved on even when you shouldn’t. Find the support of caring people who know what you’re going through and who can help you stay strong—for your loved one’s sake.
  • Get help…for your loved one. If you haven’t had contact with your loved one in a long time, and you are worried, call the police and tell them that you are afraid something has happened. They will check for you, and get your relative to the hospital if necessary.
  • Be ready. If the consequences are bad enough, your addicted family member will ask for help. Have it ready. Have treatment facilities researched, have insurance or payment information handy, and have a plan for supporting him or her during after care. This is where it is appropriate and helpful to spend money on your loved one—not before!
  • Positively reinforce. Positive reinforcement means to reward or praise certain behaviors so that the person will repeat them. Instead of asking why they screw up 90% of the time, focus on the 10% of their actions that you would like to see more of. This is more important after recovery has begun, because recovering addicts aren’t always sure how to act “normal,” and they will be glad to have certain behaviors reinforced.

When a loved one is in crisis, especially to the point of homelessness, the temptation is to swoop in and rescue them. It’s hard to do it differently, but a person in active addiction must face the consequences of their actions. The time will come for you to help. If you need help finding an addiction treatment plan that will suit your loved one in crisis, there are resources available to help. The staff at Treatment Now can answer questions and provide guidance 24/7. Just call us at