By Lorie Martiska
Many people believe common myths about homelessness. These myths can foster a climate of fear and intolerance for people experiencing homelessness. The reality is that homelessness is not an individual problem – yet these myths tend to lay the blame on individuals. Homelessness is a societal problem and one that communities, providers, cities and states must work together to address.
What are some of these myths?
🏘️1. Homeless people should just
get a job.
According to the Council for the
Homeless, a common myth is that
“these people just need to get a job”.
In fact, many of the homeless living in shelters DO have a job or even more than one. A recent report concluded to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Worcester, a family would need to earn close to $60,000 a year. For those who are unemployed, living in a car, a tent, or on the street, fnding and keeping a job is a daunting task when they are struggling with day- to- day
🏘️2. People are homeless by choice.
Being homeless can be stressful,
humiliating, exhausting and
dangerous. People would rarely, if
ever choose to be homeless. Some
homeless people do choose to live
outside rather than in a shelter because they have pets or possessions they want to retain and protect. Some people are living with physical, mental health symptoms or addictions that make their lives and decisions more diffcult. Some people became homeless because of a series of unfortunate events – loss of job, loss of family, or other circumstances. Regardless of the reason, it is almost never because they chose to be homeless.
🏘️3. People who are homeless are all dangerous, violent criminals.
Like the general population, the
vast majority of homeless individuals are focused on their own struggles and challenges and not engaged in violence or crime of any type. In fact, homeless people are far more likely to be victims of crime rather than perpetrators.
🏘️4. Housing or shelter should come
with conditions, like being clean
The conventional wisdom used to
be that housing should be dangled
like a carrot to entice someone to be treated for substance use disorders frst. Evidence has proven that an approach called Housing First is far more effective. Homeless people can fnd stability and healing when provided with empowering supports focused on stable housing frst. It
is very diffcult to address medical, mental health challenges and/or addictions when living on the streets or in an unsafe and unstable situation.
🏘️5. Most people will cycle back onto the streets and will not stay housed.
Rapid Rehousing and Permanent
Supportive Housing, highly effective strategies that combine affordable housing with intensive coordinated services, can provide needed assistance to help people remain housed. A recent study found that Rapid Rehousing ( quickly housing someone who has become homeless along with supportive services when needed), resulted in 70% – 90% of people remaining housed after a year.
🏘️6. There is nothing I can do to
There are things we can do. Be kind. For those who are unhoused, being treated with kindness is a rare commodity. Your act of kindness could be the only sign of humanity they experience throughout
the day. Volunteer to help. Shelters and other programs for the homeless welcome volunteers who donate meals, activities, clothing and their time.
Speak Up. Advocate for person
centered trauma-informed supports
that meet people where they are at.
Advocate for community solutions
and vote for people who support community-wide and evidence-based approaches to addressing homelessness.