Myths of Homelessness




For homeless people, suffering from life on the street is just the beginning of their hardship. They are often also subjected to alienation and discrimination by mainstream society.

Stereotypes spring from myths and misconceptions that need to be re-examined with a focus on the facts.

Please take a few minutes to examine these myths about homelessness and the facts that bear repeating.

Myth: Most homeless people are single men.

Fact: Although there are many single men among the homeless, the fastest growing population of homeless is families, and one out of four homeless people in the United States of America is a child.

Myth: Homeless people are lazy and don’t want to work.

Fact: Many homeless are among the working poor and only a relatively small percentage receives government assistance. Nationally, one out of every four homeless is employed. Two major factors that account for homelessness are the lack of jobs that pay a living wage and the lack of affordable housing. Declining wages have put housing out of reach for many workers. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in their “Out of Reach” 2012 report, a Floridian minimum-wage worker would need to work at least 88 hours each week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at 30% of his or her income (which is the federal definition of affordable housing).

Myth: Most homeless people are mentally ill.

Fact: About 25% of the homeless are mentally ill. Only one percent may need long-term hospitalization, the others can become self-sufficient with access to proper health care, treatment, and support.

Myth: Most homeless people are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Fact: Research suggests that only one out of every four homeless people are substance abusers. Many of these are included in the 25 percent who suffer from a mental illness. Again, with access to services and treatment, many can overcome their addictions and become self-sufficient.

Myth: Establishing services for homeless people will cause homeless people from all around to migrate to a city.

Fact: Homeless people who move to new areas do so because they are searching for work, have family in the area, or for other reasons not related to services. A recent study found that 75% of homeless people are still living in the city in which they became homeless.

Myth: Charitable organizations will take care of the homeless.

Fact: The growth of the homeless population has far exceeded the capacity of charitable groups. Homelessness is a societal problem that requires a partnership between private charities and government, with active public support.

Hope Haven of Dekalb County (Primary Source); 
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty 
Homelessness Counts 2007; U.S. Conference of Mayors National Coalition for the Homeless; 
National Low Income Housing Coalition.