Homelessness is the condition of lacking a safe, stable and decent place to live. The term encompasses those who are sleeping in places not meant for human habitation, living in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs, and “couch surfers” (those staying with friends or family).
People become homeless because of a variety of reasons. A lack of economic opportunities, a breakdown in the health and welfare system, or an unexpected event can all contribute to homelessness. Regardless of the cause, people experiencing homelessness are often misunderstood and stigmatized. This can make it difficult to access needed supports. In order to address this issue, it is important to deconstruct common myths and stereotypes that surround this population.
Myth 1: Homeless people choose to be homeless.
Many people believe that those experiencing homelessness chose to be homeless and could avoid it if they worked hard enough. This misconception is problematic, as it reinforces the idea that a person who doesn’t have a house is lazy or undeserving of help. People who experience homelessness are often unable to work because of mental or physical impairments, or are experiencing the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. This makes it very difficult for them to support themselves, let alone a family.
Myth 2: People who are homeless have bad choices.
Various factors can lead to homelessness, including unemployment, lack of affordable housing options, and discriminatory landlord policies. In the United States, black and Latino communities face higher rates of poverty than white ones. These communities also struggle to gain access to high-wage jobs, which can further increase their chances of becoming homeless. Moreover, people who experience homelessness are often socially isolated and do not have the resources or support systems to help them out of their situation.
Myth 3: Most homeless people are single individuals.
Although it is true that many people experiencing homelessness are single, the majority of homeless people are families. The reason for this is because most homeless households are headed by parents with children. This can be a result of a number of things, including abusive relationships, domestic violence, or a history of incarceration. It is also important to note that families experiencing homelessness are often displaced due to evictions or other issues that arise in their lives.
Myth 4: People who are homeless are mentally ill or addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Having a mental illness or addiction is not the only cause of homelessness, but it is a frequent factor. People who have these conditions may not be able to find and afford appropriate treatment, which can lead to them losing their homes. Additionally, some illnesses can lead to poor judgment, which can also lead to homelessness. One such example is AIDS, which can cause a person to lose their job and not be able to pay their rent.
Homelessness is a complicated problem that can affect anyone. It is important to understand the facts surrounding this issue so that we can work together to create a society in which no one experiences this challenge.