Common Homeless Myths and Why They Need to be Debunked

The Poor and the Homeless Do Not Always Need to Be with Us

Paul Toro of The Conversation discussed many of the myths about the homeless based on his 30 years of research.

  • Myth #1: The homeless and ‘poor will always be with us’

Despite this statement made in Matthew 26:11, many interpret the phrase as meaning that homeless is something we need to accept. However, the disparities of homelessness in developed and developing countries prove that homelessness is something that we can change.

Although the U.S. is one of the wealthiest nation in the world, its rate of 6.1% homelessness is much higher than other developed nations. This demonstrates that other nations have been successful in reducing homelessness.

  • Myth #2: Homelessness affects only very limited segments of American society

Yes, homelessness will most likely affect those who are most poor or disadvantaged.

But what many Americans do not realize is that more of us are vulnerable to homelessness than they may think.

In fact, research shows that college students suffer from high rates of homelessness and food insecurity. Of 40,000 students surveyed, 9% of university students and 12% of community college students reported that they had been homeless in the past year.

Many believe that most homeless individuals are mentally ill, while only about one-quarter of homeless individuals experience mental illness.

Others think many homeless individuals have “chosen” a homeless lifestyle. In reality, many experiencing homelessness are fleeing violent or difficult life circumstances, suffering from mental or substance use disorders, or previously incarcerated.
When given the choice between a mental hospital, jail, or staying in an inadequate homeless shelter in a dangerous area, most people will choose the streets.

  • Myth #3: The public has developed ‘compassion fatigue’ when it comes to homelessness

In the 1990s, many U.S. media outlets suggested that the public no longer cared about homelessness. This could not be further from the truth.

Survey evidence shows that most of the public is willing to pay more taxes to help the homeless.

Media coverage on homelessness has been shown to increase when federal funding is passed but then declines. Now, media coverage remains stagnant. It appears the media has instead developed compassion fatigue.

Homeless Myths

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