Top 10 myths about homelessness

Homeless myths

Over the past 25 years of providing hope for the homeless, we’ve realized that some individuals in our community have misconceptions about homelessness. About two years ago, we published a list of what we believed to be the top 10 homeless myths, paired with the realities. At the risk of being repetitive, with a few adaptations, we think the list still pertains today.

1 ) They are all men. – For many, the word “homeless” conjures up images of scraggly men standing on street corners holding cardboard signs. Today, that image is simply not reality. The face of homelessness has changed. The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families with children!

2 ) They are all lazy. – A sad reality facing many homeless individuals and families is that even if they work, their income cannot sustain them. In Orlando, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment requires an hourly wage of $18.00. A couple working 40 hours per week each cannot afford that with a minimum wage of $7.67!

3 ) Homelessness is a single issue. Many believe that homeless individuals “just need to get a job” to fix their situation. If only addressing the needs of the homeless were that easy! Instead, the many contributors to homelessness include low wages, lack of affordable rental housing, job loss or underemployment, domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health issues.

4 ) They are all from someplace else. Eighty-three percent of the homeless individuals interviewed for the 2009 Point In Time Count had lived in the area for one year or longer, showing that many started out as typical Central Florida residents. The Coalition served nearly 4,000 individuals and 457 families last year, the majority of whom were living in the Central Florida area when they became homeless.

5 ) Build it and they will come. – Constructing a new facility does not “attract” new homeless people to an area. Instead, providing services responds to a need that already exists.

6 ) Ignore the problem and it will go away. – The number of homeless families with children continues to increase. At the end of the 2010-2011 school year, nearly 56,000 homeless children had attended public schools in Florida, compared with just about 49,000 the year before.

7 ) Homelessness will be eliminated by adopting a 10 year plan. – Adopting a ten year plan to end homelessness creates a vision for service infrastructure, but will not automatically eliminate homelessness. Addressing this issue in a meaningful way will take resources and the commitment of the entire community.

8 ) Services provided are a hand-out. – Many homeless individuals need a hand up, not a hand-out. By providing job skills training, educational opportunities, mental health counseling, and life skills like budgeting and savings, the Coalition is working to ensure that services provide the tools clients need for self-sufficiency.

9 ) It is a lifestyle choice. As discussed in myth #3, homelessness is a situation that is the result of other problems. Most homeless individuals did not choose to become homeless and are trying desperately to return to self-sufficiency!

10 ) It will never happen to me. – Don’t believe homelessness can happen to anyone? Watch some of our videos to hear the stories of families who used to think the same thing.

Did we miss something that you think should be added to the list? Please share your own myths about homelessness below!