Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Sister wrestles with addiction and homelessness

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I allowed my sister, her dog and her friend to stay at my house instead of being homeless and sleeping on the street. The problem is, they are both alcoholics and will not try to get help or try to get a job to pay some kind of rent.

I asked them both to make other living arrangements. They decided to sleep outside my house on the ground. This breaks my heart and makes me angry at the same time. What can I do to solve this issue without calling in the police?

-- Sad and Mad in California

Dear Sad and Mad: Loved ones of people in the throes of addiction draft on hope, but looking for a surefire solution to this is like trying to solve for heartbreak. If your sister was basically homeless when she landed with you, I wonder how realistic it was for you to expect some sort of turnaround.

There is no real solution here, but only a process of you deciding what you can and will tolerate. When the prospect of losing shelter provides no incentive to grasp at recovery, you know that things are about as bad as they can get.

If you want these people off of your property, you will have to ask them explicitly to leave and give them a certain deadline. If they won't leave, then you will have to call the police. There might be a shelter nearby where they could find beds (although the drinking and the dog might preclude this).

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One alternative might be for you to get them a tent or a second-hand camper, to at least shield them from the weather. However, you should look into any possible liability regarding having these campers living on your property.

This is a very tough and sad situation for all of you. You are not in a position to police their drinking, and you don't seem to have enough leverage to force your sister into recovery. This does not mean that you should be forced to watch her heartbreaking downslide, however. How your sister chooses to live is up to her. You gave her an opportunity, and now she will have to scramble to find another.

I hope you will get yourself to a "friends and family" support group. Being around others who are walking this path will help.

Dear Amy, I just moved in with my boyfriend and I'm kind of starting to feel like maybe it was a bad idea. He is always at work, and I only get to see him for a couple of hours when he gets off work; but then he's exhausted.


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