Myth vs. Fact
November 14th-22nd marks the annual National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, a week during which we're encouraged to take action to help eradicate homelessness once and for all.
Despite the great work already being done, there still exist a number of misconceptions about the homeless population. Below are five common myths, and the truth behind them:
Myth: Homelessness is not a housing problem, it's a jobs problem.
Fact: While it's often believed that homeless individuals are simply unwilling to work, the truth is that many states are severely lacking in affordable housing. In Massachusetts, parents need to earn $24.05 per hour (more than twice the state's $9 per hour minimum wage) to afford an average 2-bedroom apartment. This leaves many families only a medical emergency, car accident, or missed paycheck away from a financial crisis resulting in homelessness.
Myth: Most homeless people live on the streets.
Fact: According to a 2014 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 69% of homeless Americans lived in shelters. Many others spend nights doubled up on the floors and couches of friends and family, or in their cars.
Myth: The majority of homeless people are single men.
Fact: Homeless individuals span the demographics of our country, including men, women, children, families, and workers. In the City of Boston, there are currently more than 1,500 homeless families, a 25% increase from last year. As of March of 2015, there were approximately 4,500 families with children in Massachusetts' state shelters, including nearly 1,500 being sheltered in motels.
Myth: Homelessness is always linked to substance abuse and/or mental illness.
Fact: While serious mental illness is more common among the homeless (1 in 4 sheltered homeless individuals in 2010), the most commonly cited causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and poverty. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about one third of sheltered homeless adults had a chronic substance abuse issue in 2010.
Myth: Homelessness is an issue that can never be solved.
Fact: A number of solutions to homelessness have been tested and proven to be effective. Federal housing vouchers and other methods of targeted affordable housing assistance have been successful in reducing family homelessness in a number of cities. Additionally, living-wage jobs and access to support services, such as health care and affordable childcare, are effective in keeping low-income families in stable housing.