I talk a lot about homelessness because it is a subject I can say I can talk about from experience. After reading an article written by Meredith Bolster, PCHC, I am reminded once again that people still need to be “educated” about the myths of homelessness especially when it comes to automatic assumptions. What do I mean by that? Well, think about it, what’s the first image that pops into your head when the words “homeless” or “homelessness” are mentioned? Ahah! Exactly! So…why are those stereotypical images in your head and where did they come from?
Maybe you saw a “dirty bum” on the streets of a city or similar portrayals of a “bum” in movies or television and that’s what your brain uses as a point of reference. It’s no surprise then that folks look surprised when they see me or others like me that don’t fit what they assume a homeless person “should” look like. Meredith points out in her article six common myths which are misconceptions but I’d like to add a few from my own experiences.
First, don’t assume that we haven’t looked at all available options to us. In case you haven’t read my previous blogs, I’ve applied for several jobs, but most of the time, never hear back so I’m thinking that I’m not the only person this is happening to.
Second, don’t assume that the state has resources available to homeless people…like housing vouchers. Check HUD’s website on section 8 and you might be surprised to learn that the “opportunity” to even apply for housing, has not been open in your state for several years and if and when your state does open the application process, you are applying to be put on a waiting list for several years.
Third, casually telling people to go to shelters when you don’t even know how the shelter system works is careless and thoughtless. Granted, there are good ones out there but ask them how often they have to turn folks away because they cannot handle the faces of “new homelessness” they now have to deal with. Many shelters are not safe or are loaded with bedbugs so I cannot blame folks who’d rather live out of their vehicles.
Fourthly, and in my opinion the biggest myth of them all is to assume that family members will volunteer to help relatives who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless. Blood ain’t always thicker than water you know….
Oh and if one of us should suddenly find themselves getting media attention or unexpected publicity, do not assume it means that a job or a better life is on the way. Those of us who may become “famous”still need housing and a way to make a living that will keep us from returning to homelessness.
Having said that, I realize that there are those who suffer from severe mental illness or disabilities that make it virtually impossible to hire so why is it the best we as a society seem to be able to do is let them live on sidewalks or shove them under bridges? I know for a fact that this country can end homelessness if it really, really wanted to. You may have seen the article I posted on We Are Visible about a federal law that mandates funds from the sale of a military base must be used to help the homeless. If you read that article, do a Google search to see how many newspapers printed the story about UGA paying $7.9 million for homeless services and read the comments posted by “compassionate” readers and you’ll see one of the reasons why homelessness is going to be a problem for what I suspect to be a long while.
So….what kind of myths do you believe in?