Addiction or dementia What is the biggest problem for the homeless?

Addiction or dementia What is the biggest problem for the homeless?

“There is no one who suffers more than a madman”

Juan Salazar, in his report “Loco por una día”

Santo Domingo.- It is very common to see homeless people on the streets of the Dominican Republic, who are usually treated with indifference and contempt, due to the distrust they generate.

Dominican culture stigmatizes all homeless people as mentally ill, who are often seen as the ugly face of society. These are beings forgotten by the State and by their own relatives, who abandon them to their fate, says psychologist Pablo de los Santos.

“People living on the streets have always existed, but after the pandemic they have proliferated, due to schizophrenia, dissociative disorder and the high rate of depression that the covid left behind,” he said.

Public health

Faced with the constant call from different sectors not to abandon people with mental disorders, the director of Mental Health of the Ministry of Public Health, Alejandro Uribe, said that from a legal point of view, this entity cannot go out indiscriminately to pick up a people on the street just because they look like mentally ill.

Addiction or dementia What is the biggest problem for the homeless?

The psychiatrist assured that this entity only responds to reports that people make. “When someone calls reporting someone with a mental disorder, we immediately send a team that goes to the place where the person is and makes a descent, with which we realize if they really are mentally ill to proceed with the protocol.”

The former director of the Dominican Schools of Psychiatry declared that not all the homeless are insane, the vast majority have addiction problems, physical illnesses such as HIV, people with severe skin lesions or simply have adopted this lifestyle.

“Last year we carried out a sampling with some people living on the streets. This resulted in that only 26 percent of the homeless suffer from some disorder, the rest are in this situation for other reasons.

Addiction or dementia What is the biggest problem for the homeless?
Addiction or dementia What is the biggest problem for the homeless?

Uribe clarified that they took the result from a small sample of that population because it is difficult to have more precise data because it is impossible to count the people who are in that situation, because they are inhabitants who are constantly on the move.

“Report calls to the department are constant and we try to help, but this is not just a psychiatric problem, this concerns the whole of society, one more than others.”


The director of Mental Health assured that the lack of space is the greatest difficulty they face in obtaining a possible solution to this problem, because there are few Crisis Intervention Units in the country.

Another limitation is the lack of professionals in the area, the country only has 200 psychiatrists for every 100,000 inhabitants and the normal number would be 400, which it should have, likewise, more psychologists and social workers are needed, he declared.

On the other hand, Julio Díaz, director of Hogares Crea in Santo Domingo, He declared that many of the people living on the streets, who are drug users, are not totally psychotic, but sometimes pretend to be so to avoid persecution by the police, because they label all homeless people as insane.

He assured that it is for this reason that there is a dual situation between these two people.

In the same way, he expressed that the main reason why drug users end up on the streets is because they do not have family or economic support.

Díaz said that currently, this center handles a population of 1,300 to 1,400 users of both sexes and minors. He also clarified that it is a rotating population, because some drop out for different reasons.

The director of Hogares Crea assured that 10 percent of its population were homeless.

community action

Addiction or dementia What is the biggest problem for the homeless?
Addiction or dementia What is the biggest problem for the homeless?

In the same way, he declared that this entity holds a lunch every two months in places where these types of illegal substances are sold with the aim of raising awareness among indigent addicts.

“When we manage to rescue someone, the first step we do is contribute to the recovery of their physical health, we also help them in their detoxification process, so that they are in optimal conditions for rehabilitation.”

the pandemic

Among the consequences of the pandemic is the increase in the number of homeless people, who, due to the production of different types of artisanal drugs, and the adulteration of existing ones, have produced a catastrophic effect on their mental condition, Díaz assured.

“After the pandemic, users have had to resort to any type of substance due to depression, anguish and anxiety.”

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