Although homeless alcoholics and other drug abusers more often elicit public scorn than sympathy, ironically they enjoy a celebrity status as research subjects. This article provides an overview of research literature on the homeless and their alcohol and drug problems. The evolution of public policies concerning control, rehabilitation, and treatment of homeless substance abusers is also traced with special attention to the interaction between scientific literature and policy responses over the past century. Although homeless populations today are more diverse than their counterparts in earlier decades, the analysis suggests that the policies and programs developed in response to the crisis of homelessness and substance abuse in the 1980s and 1990s reflect themes that are also evident in early literature.



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