5 Misconceptions about HomelessnessHomelessness affects every corner of the world. In 2019, it was estimated that 150 million people are homeless, while more than 1.6 billion lack access to adequate housing. Despite its prevalence, many have inaccurate perceptions about the nature of homelessness. The homeless population has exceedingly high barriers to overcome their circumstances. To uplift people suffering from homelessness, others must first educate themselves on the many misconceptions about homelessness. Here are five common misconceptions about homelessness.

5 Misconceptions About Homelessness

  1. “Background does not affect homelessness.” The circumstances surrounding homelessness are widespread and cannot be pinpointed. However, certain sets of conditions make homelessness more likely. For example, causes of homelessness could involve displacement, conflict, natural disasters, mental illness, family strife, gentrification, rapid urbanization and lack of affordable housing. Millions of people in Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere are displaced by terrorism or natural disasters. These conditions are largely uncontrollable and unavoidable. Homeless people can be put in this situation through no choice of their own. Unfortunately, the cycle of poverty may continue because of a person’s social, economic or geographical background.
  2. “Most people are homeless because of addiction.” While drugs can be a cause, it is more likely that addiction develops after one becomes homeless. People suffering from homelessness can fall into alcohol and drug abuse to numb their reality. A study conducted in Australia concluded that only 3% of homelessness was caused by addiction, while the major cause of homelessness was a lack of housing at 45%. Addiction can become a coping mechanism for people in negative situations, like homelessness. The stigma about substance abuse and homelessness make treatment for addiction less likely for people in this difficult situation.
  3. “Homeless people should just find a job.” To find and keep a job, people usually need to have a resume, reliable access to transportation, clean clothes to wear and have a means of contact like a cell phone. Homeless people often cannot fill out job applications without these requirements. Even with all of these resources, it may not be fixing the underlying issues of the cycle of chronic homelessness. Securing a job might happen, but recurring issues might deter people from stabilizing any income source. It is a definite misperception that homeless people are lazy and should find a job. The fact is, simply finding a job is harder than it may seem.
  4. “There are enough services to support the homeless.” The majority of services created for serving the homeless are pinpointed to shelter and food. While these services are valuable, they do not address larger institutional barriers to break a poverty cycle. Job support, healthcare, affordable housing and family services are a few less obtainable amenities. Solutions to homelessness must include temporary and long-term services for rehabilitation. In addition, urban centers are more likely to have services for the homeless, while access is particularly limited in rural areas. To create more permanent methods of relief, organizations must approach homelessness holistically.
  5. “Homelessness cannot be solved.” There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but community responsibility for the homeless can have a great impact. Finland is an excellent example of community change causing a decrease in homelessness. In the past 15 years, the numbers have decreased by about 40%. From individually tailored solutions, affordable housing, policy changes and local support, Finland is building strong networks that are creating tangible results. Prevention will also be a crucial step in solving global homelessness. By tackling causes of homelessness through intervention programs, a decrease in global homelessness is likely. It is a clear misconception about homelessness that this problem is inevitable and unfixable.

After challenging these stereotypes, people can begin to humanize the homeless population and do more work to solve this epidemic. Abandoning these five misconceptions about homelessness is a great way to start to challenge stereotypical beliefs. If people learn more about truths concerning homelessness, society can reshape and redefine the solutions to this problem.

Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr