Économie et Statistique n° 391-392 - 2006The Homeless
The alcoholisation of homeless people: questioning the stereotype
The responses to several of the questions in the French survey of the people who frequently use homeless shelters or hot meal distribution services (l'enquête auprès des personnes fréquentant les services d'hébergement ou les distributions de repas chauds) reveal the various levels of alcoholisation of the different groups of homeless people who use these support services. This quantification allows the diversity of behaviour within this population to be highlighted. There are marked differences according to the type of accommodation and resources of the respondents, and also according to their age, gender and nationality. Thus, the wide variety of social situations discovered during the survey is matched by a large variety of behaviour with regard to alcohol. French nationals seem to be the most frequent consumers of alcohol, whilst those living in the most precarious situations consume the largest amounts. It is possible, to a certain extent, to compare the declared levels of alcohol use by the homeless to those levels observed within the general population, using information gathered from household surveys. Although this comparison does not have a strong methodological basis, it does show that alcohol and homelessness are not linked as closely as is commonly thought. However, when we take this general statement and study the signs of problem drinking, it appears that the proportion of people presenting significant risks of harmful alcohol use or of alcohol dependency is markedly higher within the homeless population than within the general population, in particular amongst those individuals with the poorest social situations.