10 MYTHS ABOUT HOMELESSNESS
This week’s big idea: Challenge Your Thinking
What are your assumptions about homelessness? Like most issues, there is far more to homelessness than the stereotype.
1. Most people who are un-housed are middle-aged men.
For many, the word “homeless” conjures up images of scraggly men standing on street corners holding cardboard signs. In fact, the fastest growing segments of the homeless population are women and families with children.
2. They need to “just get a job”.
Getting a job is a challenge for most people these days, and incredibly difficult for a person, who is un-housed. Most lack transportation, a permanent address and phone number. Others may have learning disabilities and lack of education that holds them down. Even if they find work, their low income often cannot pay for housing.
3. They are dangerous.
Life on the streets can be perilous for men, women, and children, who are experiencing homelessness. But, very few crimes are committed by homeless people against the general population. And, in the case of volunteers and staff, who are trying to help them, the attitude most often seen is one of gratitude.
4. They are lazy.
People who are un-housed are often sleep-deprived, cold, wet, and/or sick. Their minds, hearts, and bodies are exhausted from trying to survive on the streets. Though help is available, they may have no idea where to begin navigating the maze of social service agencies and bureaucracy. With no transportation and little money, they can spend all day getting to food and maybe an appointment before they need to search for a safe place to sleep. And they do this while lugging their precious few possessions along with them in a bag or backpack. It is not a life of ease.
5. People are homeless by choice.
No one starts life with a goal of becoming homeless. People lose jobs and then housing. Women leave their homes, often with children in tow, to escape domestic violence. Many people have experienced significant trauma and simply cannot cope with life. Others struggle with mental illness, depression or post-traumatic stress. Outside circumstances strongly influence the choices they make.
6. If homeless people wanted to, they could pull themselves out of it.
Once a man or woman loses a job or a home, getting those things back can feel nearly impossible. Imagine trying to get a job when you have no address to put on a resume, no phone number, no shower and no clean-pressed clothes.
7. Providing food and shelter only enables people to remain homeless.
Food and shelter are essentials for life. By offering these and other outreach services, like restrooms and mail service, we build relationships with people in need. Then we’re able to offer them something more through various programs, like counseling, addiction recovery, emotional healing, spiritual guidance, education, life skills and job training.
8. If we provide sufficient affordable housing, homelessness will end.
Certainly, housing is a basic necessity in order for people to then more easily move forward with their lives. Putting a roof over the head of a deeply hurting person will not heal emotional wounds, create relational stability or establish healthy life skills. As a result, housing alone may not keep a person housed. Supportive services are often needed once a person, who has been homeless, is housed.
9. Homelessness will never happen to me.
People, who have experienced homelessness, can attest to the fact that they never intended or expected to become homeless. They’ve had solid jobs, houses, and families, but at some point, life fell apart. They are desperate for a way back home. Given a certain set of circumstances, including natural disasters, ANYONE can become homeless.
10. Homelessness will never end.
Many U.S. cities have established ambitious goals with 10-year plans to end homelessness. While these plans to provide housing and better centralized services to homeless people are important in reducing the scope and duration of homelessness, they will not completely eliminate it everywhere for all time. But homelessness does end—one life at a time. With your help, we continue to restore the lives of hurting men, women and children every day.
(credit: Portland Homeless Rescue Mission, Portland, Oregon USA - http://www.1010pdx.org/search/label/Top%2010 )