January 2, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 1


In ‘wet housing,’ alcoholics find motivation to stay dry

By Aaron Burkhalter / Staff Reporter

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Housing, not treatment, is the reason formerly homeless people who moved into the controversial 1811 Eastlake housing project curb their drinking, a new study has shown.

Over two years, researchers at the University of Washington surveyed nearly 100 residents who have stayed in the 75-bed housing facility, where residents are allowed to drink alcohol on site, compared to other shelter and housing programs that demand abstinence. Their findings offer further evidence that simply providing a roof and a bed can help formerly homeless people recover from alcoholism.

UW and Harborview Medical Center assistant professor Susan Collins found residents of 1811 drank less because housing provided motivation to change. Those who reported that they were motivated to alter their drinking patterns drank less than those who attended treatment programs.

Few residents attended substance abuse treatment programs frequently while living at 1811 Eastlake. About 47 percent attended treatment at least once during the two years of the study, but only one reported attending treatments regularly.

Collins said helping residents improve their own motivation would be helpful in decreasing alcohol use further.

It’s not the first time the 1811 Eastlake project has proven effective.

A study released in January 2012 found that residents drank less alcohol each month that they stayed at 1811 Eastlake. A later study showed that residents had reduced jail time and bookings.

Speaking at City Hall in December, Collins explained that “wet housing” is important for people reducing alcohol consumption because abstinence can lead to delirium tremens, a sometimes-fatal alcohol withdrawal condition.

Her work contradicts the “enabling hypothesis,” which maintains that wet housing would lead to increased use of alcohol.

Downtown Emergency Services Center runs the 1811 Eastlake housing project, which opened in 2005.



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