Over the past five years, there has been a fifty percent increase in the number of homeless people in Israel. One of the surprising problems with homeless people is that even when they have a place to stay and adequate living conditions, they often prefer the street to housing because only there can they find drugs and alcohol. It is as though their addiction is pulling them out of the homes, into the street, and away from hope of a decent life.
Once someone is addicted to drugs, it is nearly impossible to reverse his or her situation. Drugs are so tempting to addicts that there is virtually nothing that can stand against them.
The solution to the problems of addicts is not on the personal level, but on the social one. If a society has a strong anchor that can lift such people and turn them into a constructive part of society, they might stand a chance. Regrettably, I do not see such an anchor in the current Israeli society; it has nothing to offer the addicts.
Worse yet, at the moment, I do not see a society in Israel. Once we build a society, we can build a society for homeless people and drug addicts, prostitutes, and all the other disadvantaged people in the country.
By society, I do not mean institutions or regulations. Society means people who feel connected to each other, who feel a bond and support one another. A society means people who get up from their seats to meet one another. If we had such people, we could build something.
When you bring a drug addict into such a society, he or she sees how people live, what they want, what are their goals, their future, and what satisfies them. Then, instead of focusing on their personal situation, drug addicts can see hope, and this will vitalize them and calm their incessant need to get away from reality through drugs.
In a sense, it will make addicts “hooked” on social life rather than on drugs. A society where people care for one another has such a magnetic power that people who come near it will not be able to disconnect from it. Drug addicts who come to such a society reject the drugs that they use to disconnect themselves from reality because it disconnects them from the “potion of life” they feel all around them.
Therefore, if we want to solve such problems as homelessness, drug addiction, and prostitution, we should not focus not on the victims, but on the society around them. That society will determine whether they are healed or remain afflicted.
Homeless individual sleeping in Herald Square in New York on Friday, Jun 3, 2022. (ÂPhoto by Richard B. Levine)