Pervasive myths about homelessness contributes to stigmatization that further marginalizes society's most vulnerable. Myth busting is therefore critical to meet the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness. Just before Thanksgiving, GC2EH Co-Lead Dr. Deborah Padgett spoke with Reed Pence from the Radio Health Journal about common myths surrounding homelessness and the people who endure it.
Systemic failures driving homelessness.
The ultimate cause of homelessness is the fact that since the Reagan Era and starting somewhat before that, the Federal Government stopped building new public housing units and ratcheted back support for rental vouchers and that kind of thing, and for the most part left it to the private sector to build housing with some kind of hope or wish that some proportion of that would be affordable, which of course for the private sector would cut into profits and makes it very difficult.
To blame the victim is sort of to shine the spotlight away from the larger picture of what is going on here.
Spending money on drugs and alcohol.
We don’t want to pretend that they don’t spend money on drugs or alcohol, but so do the rest of us in our homes. So does the rest of American society spend. And to a large extent, that spending is often a way of kind of escaping the realities and horrors of living on the street ... Some people do spend their money [on drugs or alcohol], but when we really talk to them about how they make a living and what little money they can make through recycling cans and so-forth, most of that goes to buying food or toiletries and necessities.
The criminalization is largely small ordinance violations like trespassing and public urination, but whatever they’re doing are just the things that the rest of us do indoors and don’t get punished for. The criminalization comes from getting a summons to appear in court, then you don’t appear in court, then a fine goes out, and before you know it, you’re in jail for not paying a fine for that small infraction. So, many homeless people get caught up in the system and end up spending time in jail strictly for doing things that the rest of us do indoors without being punished.
A significant proportion of homeless people do have jobs. These are often people who sleep in their cars because they simply cannot afford to pay their rent on the salary that they are making ... Most homeless people have some way to get an income and a fairly significant percent, particularly outside of big cities, do have jobs. They just can’t afford rent.
Ending homelessness via Housing First.
It is more expensive to do nothing about homelessness than it is to invest in placing people into units and providing the support services. Those two things sound expensive, but they’re actually less expensive than doing nothing.
Listen to the full show here: