Top Ten Myths about Homelessness

Last week we posted up some of the causes of homelessness. Below are some of the common myths about homelessness and the reasons why someone might be homeless. One of our student volunteers reflected that

The two Myths that I found myself believing the most prior to [volunteering with Thrive DC] would be numbers one and five. Although the face of homelessness is changing, it is still easy to picture a middle aged man on the street, making it easier to see homelessness as an individual problem, not as a societal problem. Additionally, I found it easy to believe that if homeless shelter were to be built in an area, it would attract more homeless–but that’s just not the case. Homeless people are already in the area, many are just not receiving the services they need.

Take a few minutes to read over these myths and let us know what you think. Have you ever bought into one of these ideas? Have you had an experience that changed your mind?

10.  They are all men: people tend to associate those who are homeless with the image of a “scraggly” man standing on the street asking for money, and thus tend to think that only men are homeless. This is false. There has been a recent increase in the amount of women and families among the homeless population

9.  They are all lazy: people tend to think that those who are homeless are so because they were/are too lazy to try and get a source of income. This is false. Many of the individuals and families that are homeless work to to produce an income. However, this income is insufficient to supporting the cost of living in Washington, DC and many other urban centers in the United States.

8.  Homelessness is a single issue: There are many factors that contribute to homelessness. These may include low wages, lack of affordable rental housing, job loss or underemployment (meaning work hours were cut or someone was forced to accept a job lower than their earning potential), domestic violence, substance abuse, and health issues.

7. They are all from someplace else: The majority of the people who are homeless in a city, or area, became homeless in that same area and remain due to the  networks that they have created and formed over time within the area.

6. Build It and they will come: constructing a new facility such as an affordable housing complex will not necessarily attract people who are homeless to invest, nor be able to afford living there.

5. Ignore the problem and it will go away: The rate of homelessness in America continues to increase.

4. Homelessness will go away with a 10 year plan: Just because a city creates a ten year initiative with an infrastructure to help provide aid and reduce the levels of the homelessness, does not mean that it will be effective, nor that it will put an end to homelessness in the area as a whole. You can see an example of a ten year plan here.

3. Services provided are a hand-out: while many homeless individuals do benefit from service hand-out, many also need support and guidance in how to use these services to their best advantage. By providing services such as job training, educational opportunities, mental health counseling, and life skills like budgeting and savings, individuals can obtain the skills to become self-sufficient and stabilize their lives.

2. It is a lifestyle choice: It is incredibly rare for an individual to choose to become or choose to continue to be homeless. For many, a current state of homelessness is often a result of losing employment and/or housing, having a disability that impacts their ability to be self-sufficient, having faced a family problem at home, and a variety of other reasons.

1. It will never happen to me: Homelessness is a very unfortunate and upsetting issue, which no one wants to be subjected to. However, especially in today’s economic recession, anyone can be susceptible to it.

*This list was adapted from the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida (


By | 2012-06-29T09:00:50+00:00 June 29th, 2012|Blog, Top Five|4 Comments


  1. Thrive DC July 20, 2012 at 9:05 am - Reply

    […] few weeks ago I posted a list of myths about homelessness. As an organization that provides services to men and women experiencing homelessness and that […]

  2. 50ish July 23, 2012 at 2:23 am - Reply

    You are correct in saying that the face of homelessness is changing. Having said that, there are still the typical kinds of homeless people, that is the “scraggly” man standing on the street asking for money, as you put it, many of which, in the UK anyway, also have mental issues.  But the new tribe of homeless men and women are appearing as a direct result of the current global economic crisis from what I read and hear.
    Seeing young homeless kids is incredibly sad, but at least they have time to correct their situation if only they reach out for help. Not so with the middle-aged and older. Don’t get me wrong, they still have hope if they know where to look for help and accept charitable assistance, but they don’t have the luxury of time to bounce back and stride forward that the youngsters do.
    Anyway, it’s all very sad, whichever way one looks at it.
    Andy Aitch

    • Thrive DC July 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We hope that this can be a space where discussions like this one can take root and (hopefully) lead to positive change.

  3. Adrian January 19, 2016 at 12:05 am - Reply

    I used to work with Americorps teaching children in south central Los Angeles. We had an opportunity to visit the area of downtown LA where there were a lot of homeless shelters and ministries to help homeless people. There were also soup kitchens there where they provide free meals to the homeless.. almost all of these places had programs that could educate or train homeless people and support them until they are able to find jobs and support themselves. There were very many individuals that do not take advantage of these programs because it requires something of them – taking responsibility. There were many who were content to live in the shelter, get free meals, and just hang around asking for money.

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