Why Some Recovering Addicts Feel Like They Must Choose Between Homelessness or Relapse

Many individuals will state that one of the most difficult parts of recovering from the problems of substance abuse and addiction is admitting that one has a problem and needs help. However, even in cases where individuals recognize that drug use is destroying their health, relationships and life and that they need help, the road to recovery can be very long and hard. He will take whatever help he can get, even if that help forces the individual to make a difficult choice: relapse or face homelessness.

Looking For Any Sort of Help

Horace Bush decided at the age of sixty two that getting clean from drug use had quite literally become a matter of life or death for him. After a lifetime of abusing various drug substances, Bush moved off the streets and into a house in Brooklyn that is supposed to help people like him, people who are seeking to stabilize their lives and improve their futures. What Bush has found, however, is hardly conducive to lasting recovery.

Bush is crammed into a bedroom hardly bigger than the size of a parking space, and he shares it with three other men. He attended a drug-treatment program for nine months, and when he finished he was absolutely determined that he would remain sober. However, the individual who runs the house, two-time felon Yury Baumblit, hardly has his tenants’ best interests in mind. Baumblit receives kickbacks on the Medicaid fees that are paid to the outpatient treatment programs he insists all his tenants must attend. In order to stay in the house Bush was given a choice: relapse into drug use and enroll in another recovery program – or move back onto the streets. Bush decided that the streets and homeless shelters were his worst options, so he returned to the use of alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine and enrolled in a new rehabilitation program chosen by Baumblit. In the past two and a half years, Bush has relapsed and enrolled in treatment four times, just so that he can continue living in one of Baumblit’s houses.

Bush is just one of thousands of other single men and women who are attempting to recover from addiction in homes known as “three-quarter” houses. These individuals have no place else to go, and wind up in homes that are unregulated and often run by unscrupulous individuals. A government official recently estimated that there are approximately six hundred of these houses in Brooklyn alone, but as the houses open and close constantly it is hard to get a more precise figure.

Three-quarter houses are often decrepit, infested with vermin and absolutely filled to overflowing with bunkbeds and hopeful recovering addicts. Exits are blocked, fire escapes non-existent, and the homes themselves considered entirely illegal since they violate building codes and are overcrowded. Many of the houses have become the antithesis to their original purposes – turning into drug dens where people are just as likely to die from drug overdoses as if they had just remained on the street or in their own homes.

Ignoring the Problem

Investigations into these three-quarter homes have also found that reputable hospitals, treatment programs and shelters, along with the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, routinely send individuals to these homes. The city’s Human Resources Administration sends the operators of these homes a “shelter allowance” of $215 each month for many of the tenants, continuing to support these shady operations. Furthermore, the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services pays millions in Medicaid money for tenant rehabilitation treatment.

Despite their questionable usefulness and the fact that they take advantage of individuals whose rent and rehabilitation treatment programs are paid for with taxpayer money, three-quarter homes are yet tolerated, because they fill a need that is otherwise largely ignored. Now more than ever there is a crushing need to provide adequate treatment and shelter to poor and homeless drug addicts who desperately want to change their lives and simply need help in order to do so.