Myth-Busting Time

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” Jose Narosky

Charlotte Bronte: “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”

One of the most important things we can offer the homeless is understanding, and that starts with challenging our assumptions about them. Let’s loosen and fertilize our hearts by debunking a few myths:

Photo, courtesy Wikimedia Commons, C. G. P. Grey

*They’re dangerous: Homeless people are more likely to be the victims of crimes than the perpetrators.

*They freeload off of American tax dollars: Many of our nation’s homeless have contributed something far more dear than tax dollars. Recent numbers suggest that 1 in 4 homeless people are veterans, and 70% of homeless vets served for three or more years. A leading reason for their poverty is the high incidence and insufficient treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

*They’re substance abusers: It’s true that the number is high, an estimated 50%. But some only began using after becoming homeless. Still others start after accepting protection from abusers.

*They don’t want to work: Many people lose their homes while they’re still holding down steady employment. Full-time hours at minimum wage isn’t enough to cover basic living expenses in many major cities. Others have insufficient or no health insurance when a serious medical condition strikes.

*They’re mentally unstable: Only 25% of the homeless suffer from a mental illness. Those who do are often refused employment or housing (even when they have money) as a consequence of their illness.

*They’re too stubborn to go to shelters: Capacity and safety standards vary widely at shelters across the country, and homeless people often rely on street-based safety networks. And some shelters are gender-specific, forcing couples and families to split up if they want beds.

Do you have any poverty myth-busting of your own to add? Please do share your ideas for being more helpful and understanding of the poor in our communities.

Leave a comment 5 Comments

  1. Eileen Cigala says:

    A homeless person really appreciates that cup of coffee I buy them…my coworkers remind me that theirs should have been no cream….

  2. Martie says:

    Most often it’s the economy and lack of jobs available that cause them to lose all they have worked hard for previously.

  3. julia hayes says:

    His Holiness The Dalai Lama once said, “You can hardly call a beggar an obstacle to compassion.”

    Those who suffer the ravages of poverty, homelessness, addiction and abuse are the greatest masters at teaching us compassion and eliminating dichotomy–right versus wrong, good versus bad and so forth. It is when we have the courage to step outside the box in which we have confined ourselves that we can see people for who they really. This courage enables us to stop thinking in terms of us versus them. This courage empowers us with the truth that there is no us or them. There is only we…together…One.

  4. Thank you so much. The older I get I have found that I continually need reminded of the sterotypes and assumptions which I have allowed to pollute my mind and thinking. It is blogs like yours that help to remind me that I must always be willing to put the shoes of others on before I too quickly judge them. 🙂 Thank you!

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