Alcohol Awareness Week – Understanding Alcohol Harm

Alcohol Awareness week this year takes place from 1-7 July. 

The week provides a vital platform to shed light on the complex relationship between alcohol use and homelessness. By focusing on this intersection, we can better understand the challenges faced by homeless individuals, promote empathy and support, and work towards effective solutions to break the cycle of dependency and homelessness.

Understanding Alcohol Harm and Homelessness: A Comprehensive Look

Alcohol harm and homelessness are two significant public health issues that often intersect, creating a complex web of challenges for individuals and communities. Understanding the relationship between these issues is essential for developing effective interventions and support systems.

The Interconnection Between Alcohol Harm and Homelessness

Alcohol abuse is both a cause and a consequence of homelessness. For some, alcohol use may begin as a coping mechanism for dealing with personal trauma, financial hardship, or mental health issues. Over time, what starts as a form of self-medication can spiral into dependency, exacerbating the very problems it was intended to alleviate.

Conversely, the harsh realities of homelessness—exposure to the elements, lack of security, and social isolation—can drive individuals to increase their alcohol consumption as a means of temporary escape. This reciprocal relationship creates a vicious cycle that makes it difficult for individuals to regain stability and access the help they need.

People like Lewis.

Lewis was referred to 451 (our complex needs service) in October of 2022, having been through a revolving door of homelessness services. Lewis had lived at 451 previously under the old alcohol reduction project. He has had past issues with alcohol.

Lewis found coming back to 451 a little unsettling as many aspects had changed since his previous stay. He found it difficult to accept that the day-to-day routines were different, and this had an impact on his behaviour. Staff worked with him to restart his benefits which had been sanctioned (reduction or suspension of welfare payments), and encouraged him to reengage with local services.

Moving forward to 2024 and Lewis has successfully retained his accommodation at 451 for almost the full two-year tenancy. He has also reconnected with his daughter and makes visits to see her twice a year.

Lewis works with local support services regularly and has greatly reduced his substance intake. This is still a journey of recovery, but one Lewis is now happy to make.

For the first time in a long while Lewis is looking forward to the future. He takes pride in where he lives and often helps around the garden and in the house where he likes to cook for residents. He has chosen to move on within Jimmy’s in order to retain the support of Jimmy’s staff as he feels he is not quite ready to live in unsupported accommodation just yet. The team are currently working with him to ensure a smooth transition from our complex need centre to a Modular home/shared house

From where Lewis started in October 2022, to where Lewis is now, is a testament to his hard work and determination. There is no easy route to abstinence and each day has brought its own challenge and each challenge overcome has brought its own reward.


Understanding the relationship between alcohol harm and homelessness is essential to supporting individuals affected by these issues. By addressing the economic, social, and health-related factors that contribute to this cycle, and by promoting compassionate and meaningful interventions, we help individuals achieve stability and improve their quality of life. Through community action and policy advocacy, we can create a more supportive and inclusive society for all.

To help more people like Lewis donate here.