A quick internet search and review of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will give you a quick, but in-depth look at homelessness in your area. According to the HUD Exchange, an estimated 553,742 people were homeless on a single night. On that night, if you were to visit the homeless, you’d meet families with children, disabled individuals, and veterans. Unfortunately, in the space of a year, more than one million people in the United States will experience homelessness.
Part of the problem is that there are many myths and stereotypes about homelessness. An understanding of these myths can boost awareness and lead to more efforts to alleviate the problem.
Myth One: Homelessness Was Chosen
There are many circumstances that could lead a family or individual into homelessness. For example, women who have suffered domestic abuse often lose their homes and access to all financial resources when they try to break out of that situation. When veterans return home from serving in the military, they often suffer from mental illnesses that prevent them from getting or keeping jobs and that make it difficult for the veteran to assimilate into society at home. Children at odds with their parents often find themselves without homes. The factors are complex and homeless individuals often face these struggles alone.
Myth Two: Homeless People Aren’t Working or Educated
Many people truly believe that the men and women living on the streets are there because they haven’t tried to get a job. However, a 2015 FAFSA report cited 58,000 college students who were homeless. Between 2013 and 2014, 32,494 students were homeless while enrolled in public schools. For many individuals and families without homes, their paychecks aren’t enough to cover the cost of a home. These people face additional challenges because surviving without a home takes a determination to persist, especially when finding a job or getting an interview can be hampered by the lack of an address.
Myth Three: Homelessness Only Affects Cities
There are several stereotypes that negatively affect efforts to alleviate homelessness. Some of the most harmful stereotypes are that most homeless people are single men. In fact, 60% of the country’s homeless are women with children and many of these people live in rural areas. Additionally, the percentages of reported homeless are skewed by the lack of resources in some areas. When homeless individuals don’t access resources, their numbers aren’t added to the national statistics.
Myth Four: Homelessness Is an Individual Problem
In spite of the fact that the majority of people living in homelessness, many people continue to believe that single men are the dominant segment of the homeless population. Sadly, many family shelters don’t accept men, so families are separated when they seek shelter. In some cases, children qualify for services, but their parents don’t, causing further divisions in family units.
Myth Five: Services Are Already in Place
It’s true that many communities provide resources for homeless people, but this doesn’t guarantee access to those services. Government resources are just the first step toward solving this problem. Influential community leaders, such as Dr. Rohit Varma, and the general population must become informed and then take action.
A Change of Mind
It’s easy to want homeless people to prove their worth before providing housing and other resources, it’s a bit more difficult to gather information from reputable sources. With those facts, it’s possible to move forward in proposing and implementing solutions that provide jobs, mental health treatment, food, and housing to those currently experiencing homelessness. Remember that poverty and a lack of work ethic are not the only causes of homelessness.
By removing just two factors of your secure life, the possibility of homelessness becomes a little easier to believe; consider for a moment where you would be without access to your support system and health care. It’s time to increase awareness and then take action to improve access to new opportunities for those living without homes.