Homeless Myths

HOMELESS MYTHS SQUASHED

1) All homeless are older, alcoholic males

WRONG! In 1998, 40% of the clients served in homeless shelters in our community were children. Eighty-two percent of those children were under the age of 10.

2) All of the homeless are lazy and refuse to work

During the past year, 24% of the clients entering local homeless shelters were employed when they requested service. Unfortunately, most were employed at minimum wage jobs with no benefits. Families often become homeless when one family member experiences a medical crisis and becomes unable to work or pay for medical treatment.

3) All of the homeless want to be on welfare

The public perception of welfare is that it is easy to obtain, easy to live on, and provides an excellent standard of living. In reality, applying for welfare can be (and often is) a dehumanizing experience.

The welfare system in and of itself is not designed for the benefit of the client nor is it designed to empower them to achieve a better life.

Programs designed to get individuals off the welfare rolls (such as Kanwork, Voc-Rehab), are often unavailable without a long waiting period.

If a mother is able to secure employment, she often does not make enough to pay for child care, mecical costs, transportattion, etc., ano thererore it may not be cost effective for her to work. The monthly amount a single mother with two children receives is $403 with approximately $304 in food stamps. Out of these monies, she must pay her rent, utilities, transportation, etc. Items such as toiletpaper, paper products, cleaning supplies, diapers, etc. are not covered by food stamps. For example, if her monthly rent is $325, that will leave her with $78 to purchase the above listed items. As you can see, that will not ensure her a high standard of living.

All of the homeless are uneducated

People from a variety of backgrounds, educational levels, ethnic groups become homeless. It is estimated that every American is two paychecks away from becoming homeless. During the past year, 74% of the adults entering local homeless shelters had a high school diploma or a G.E.D. and 17% had some college credits. Education, in and of itself is no guarantee that an individual will not become homeless.

All of the homeless are addicted to drugs and alcohol

Statistically, it is estimated that approximately 30% of the homeless population in the United States has a substance abuse problem. Most?stereotype their behavior and personal characteristics, It becomes easy to “blame” them for their misfortune and see them as deserving their fate. In reality, many of the factors that impact these families and individuals are beyond their control (poverty, lack of affordable housing, mental illness and/or mental retardation, inability to find full time permanent employment which would allow them to support their family, physical disabilities, inability to support family on public assistance, etc.)

Prepared by Lynn Tatlock, Director of Salvation Army Homeless Services

Disclaimer: Messiah’s Branch is not affiliated with the Salvation Army