Myth: All people who are homeless live on the streets.
FACT: People who are visibly homeless (the people we see on the street) are just part of the total homeless population. Researchers estimate that 3 out of 4 people who are homeless don’t sleep on the street, but use shelters, sleep in cars or on someone’s couch.
Myth: People who are homeless are lazy and don’t want to get a job.
FACT: People who are homeless face many challenges in getting and maintaining a job. Without an address or phone it is difficult to apply for work and receive calls from potential employers.
Myth: Mental illness is the main reason people are homeless.
FACT: While some people who are homeless do suffer from mental illness, a recent study of homelessness in Canada has found the main reason for homelessness is poverty.
Myth: Homeless people are mostly single men.
FACT: Families constitute a large and growing percentage of the homeless population. A recent study found that families comprise 38% of the urban homeless population.
Myth: Homeless people don’t work and get most of their money from public assistance programs.
FACT: Homeless people do work, and a relatively small percentage of them receive government assistance.
Myth: Setting up services for homeless people will cause homeless people from all around to migrate to a city.
FACT: Studies have shown that homeless people do not migrate for services. To the extent they do move to new areas, it is because they are searching for work, have family in the area, or other reasons not related to services. A recent study found that 75% of homeless people are still living in the city in which they became homeless.
Myth: All people who are homeless are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
FACT: Some people who are homeless do have addiction problems but studies show that less than half suffer from addictions.
Myth: People who are homeless want to be that way and are to blame for their own situation.
FACT: Less than 6% of homeless are there by choice. Most people who are homeless are victims. Some have suffered from child abuse or violence. Many have lost their jobs after years of employment and had to give up their homes.
Myth: People who are homeless are dangerous.
FACT: In general, the homeless are among the least threatening group in society. If anything they are the victims of crimes. Members of the public mistakenly think that people sleep in public places because they are intoxicated. Mostly, people sleep during the day because it is not safe to sleep at night. People who are homeless are targets for violence and theft.
Myth: Homelessness is just a fact of life; there is nothing we can do about it.
FACT: It takes three things to end homelessness:
- An adequate income
- Affordable housing
- Support services for those who need them
“It’s estimated that as many as 300,000 Canadians make their homes in emergency shelters or on the streets,” said Alex Himelfarb, Chair of the CAEH Board of Directors. “The challenge may seem daunting but we have seen progress wherever there has been the political will and community engagement. A national solution requires leadership from the federal and provincial governments and grassroots participation.