I live in the Fair Oaks region of the greater Fairfax, Virginia area. Located in Fairfax County, Fairfax is located further away from Washington D.C., thus making it slightly cheaper to live in. Furthermore, the area is less densely populated than that of the district. This town is rather quaint, consisting of plenty of young families and children. While the community itself is very pleasant, it is lacking in some resources which address the universal struggles of society.

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I did not notice many shelters in Fairfax. Additionally, I did not come across any drug and rehab centers for substance abuse either. This leads me to believe that while the problem may not be significant, addicts and poverty-stricken individuals in the community are deprived of resources. I witnessed a mother with a young child asking people for money at a busy intersection one day. This was the fifth instance of panhandling that I had witnessed in a relatively short period of time. Since Fairfax is not very accommodating to the needs of this population, I will use them as my vulnerable population of study.

The purpose of this assessment is to provide an overview of the struggles which affect those living in poverty and/or with substance abuse problems. I will discuss the relationship between this relatively small demographic with the community that they reside in. The social makeup of the town as well as its lack of the necessary resources make it difficult to contribute for such people in Fairfax.

People with substance dependencies and those who live in poverty often suffer from some degree of mental illness. Chemical and alcohol addictions are considered to be their own classification of mental illness. Often, the two groups of people are one in the same. While I notice few individuals soliciting the public for money, the number of occurrences is noticeable. I have noticed this especially with mothers who are with children. To me, this implies that the same individuals are the ones who are stagnant in terms of their social progression.

While the city of Fairfax is a very nice community, it is built for certain members of society. From what I observed, there were no addiction treatment facilities or homeless shelters anywhere. While I did not witness any drug use firsthand, I would not doubt that it is occurring. Since Fairfax does not have the resources needed to assist this vulnerable population, they are more susceptible to recurring behaviors and lifestyles.

In more recent times, these exact facilities are what have been the most beneficial to this population. Government assistance has been gradually becoming more widely available as well. Economic downturns of the 21st century have polarized the social classes, making people more vulnerable to their mental illnesses. In times of depression and angst, people can often turn to substance abuse to cope. Ultimately, this puts people in a state of regression, in which they can only remain poor while coping with their circumstances with what they know.

Many people who are in their socioeconomic state are capable of getting themselves to a higher one. I believe that if this population had the resources that they needed, they would become more likely to not relapse. In order to do this, an addict must have the proper motivation and reasons to continue their addictions. A study regarding relapse prevention states “Information on determinants and predictors of relapse is evaluated, with the emphasis on the interaction of individual, environmental, and physiological factors.” (Brownell, Lichtenstein, Marlatt, & Wilson, 1988). When proper psychological treatment is implemented, many addicts are able to overcome their lifestyles, eventually guiding them to a more lucrative and productive position in life. In order to find this direction, the proper assistance needs to be available. Since the same individuals were often the ones not making any progress in life, the lack of the necessary outlets has made the correlation evident.

It is sufficient to say that Fairfax did not have the adequate resources for assisting this population. I observed few people who appeared to be in need of such resources, but the needs of the few must also be considered. Two of the most helpful resources that this population can benefit from are shelters and rehab centers. I did notice a couple of hospitals during my stay in Fairfax. It is likely that they may have psychiatric units, but this in itself is part of a greater mental health curriculum. Additionally, these types of programs will only provide medication and therapy most of the time.

Shelters and rehab centers often provide extra services, such as job placement and welfare application assistance. If this population is stuck in the same cycle of behavior, they will likely find it difficult to find these things on their own. The community of Fairfax struggles with mental health disorders in general to a minimal extent. One of the most effective coping mechanisms is for the affected person to be aware of how to manage their condition (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). If the facilities to assist this population were available in Fairfax, affected people may be able to receive the help that they need.

In short, this vulnerable population would be less vulnerable if they were able to get the help that they need. While the frequency of this population might be greater in larger cities, affected people in Fairfax have little hope of breaking free of the lifestyles which often trigger their poverty. This can be changed by providing adequate assistance to them. By providing shelters and exclusive mental health treatment facilities, Fairfax may be able to provide hope for addicts and lower-class citizens.

  • Brownell, K. D., Lichtenstein, E., Marlatt, G. A., & Wilson, G. T. (1988). Understanding and Preventing Relapse. Biological Barriers in Behavioral Medicine, 281-320. doi:10.1007/978-1-4684-5374-4_11
  • U. S Department of Health and Human Services. (2016, November 18). Mental Health and Mental Disorders | Healthy People 2020. Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/mental-health-and-mental-disorders