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Myths & Facts
Myths and facts about homelessness in NELA and beyond
Courtesy The Wellspring Housing & Supportive Services Program
Myth: People become homeless because they can’t manage their money.
Fact: In Northeast Louisiana, as nationally, there are a variety of reasons why people become homeless. For example, an illness can lead to job loss and debt, which can in turn lead to getting behind on rent payments, thus resulting in eviction. In NELA, in a January 2008 survey of homeless persons who reported a reason for their homelessness, 30.5% said severe mental illness, 23% chronic substance abuse, and 30% domestic violence. (NELA Homeless Coalition, Jan. 2008)
Myth: People who are homeless want to be that way.
Fact: Few (2.7%) of the homeless are that way by choice. (Snow, Anderson, 1993)
Myth: Charitable groups will take care of the homeless.
Fact: The needs of the homeless far exceed the capacity of charitable/non-profit groups. (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2008) In NELA as elsewhere, demand always exceeds supply for subsidized housing and services of homeless assistance providers. Here a minority of the homeless being served by homeless programs receive any type of public assistance. A Jan. 2008 survey showed the top three benefits received by the homeless were food stamps (35%), SSI (10%), and Medicaid (14%). (NELA Homeless Coalition, 2008)
Myth: Homeless people are mostly single men.
Fact: Research indicates that nationwide 37% of the homeless are families with children. (2007 Homeless assessment Report, U.S. HUD) In NELA, 60.5% of the homeless are families with children. (NELA Homeless Coalition, Jan. 2008) A typical family in a homeless shelter is a mother and two or three children. (2007 AHAR)
Myth: Establishing homeless services will cause more people to migrate to an area.
Fact: Homeless people usually move to find work or because they have friends or family in an area—not because of the homeless services. (Burt, 1997; NLCHP, 2002)
Myth: They’re to blame for being homeless.
Fact: Homeless people are more often victims of some sort of abuse or violence (30%) or a disabling illness or condition (53%). (NELA Homeless Coalition, 2008)
Myth: It is easy to recognize homeless people.
Fact: A large percentage (60.5%) of the homeless population in NELA are working parents with children. (NELA Homeless Coalition, 2008) It is impossible to identify them as “homeless” by sight because they are typically working in low-income jobs and their children are in school during the day. At night they sleep in vehicles, garages or motels. Many move daily from house to house not knowing who will allow them to sleep on their floor or sofa that night. (The Wellspring Home at Last program, 2008)
Myth: Homeless people are dangerous
Fact: In general, the homeless are among the least threatening group in our society and are more likely to be victims of crime themselves. (Natl. Coalition for the Homeless, 2008) Although they are more likely to commit non-violent crimes and non-destructive crimes, they are less likely to commit crimes against person or property. (American Society of Criminology, 2007) In recent years, many cities have made being homeless a crime, by passing measures that target homeless people by making it illegal to perform life-sustaining activities like sleeping, camping, eating, or begging in public. (NCH, 2008)
Myth: Homeless people don’t work.
Fact: The working poor make up a significant portion of the homeless — 17.4% of homeless families and 13% of homeless individuals. (U.S. Confr. of Mayors, 2007) In NELA in January 2008, 23.8% of those served by homeless programs reported income from employment. Poverty and homelessness are inextricably linked. The working poor typically have very low paying jobs that put housing out of reach for many workers. On average, a minimum-wage worker would have to work 87 hours each week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at 30% of his or her income, which is the federal definition of affordable housing. (Natl. Coalition for the Homeless, 2008)
Myth: Homeless people are mentally ill or substance abusers.
Fact: In NELA, in a January 2008 survey of homeless persons, 30.5% reported a severe mental illness and 23% chronic substance abuse. (NELA Homeless Coalition, Jan. 2008) Between 10% and 20% suffer both disorders. (SAMSA, NLCHP, 2002)
1991- The Northeast Louisiana Housing and Supportive Services Corporation (usually referred to as the HOME – Housing Options Meant for Everyone – Coalition) began when a small group of homeless service providers in Ouachita Parish began informal networking after attending the state’s first homeless conference.
From those first collaborative efforts, the Coalition has grown to become the lead agency in coordinating Northeast Louisiana’s response to homelessness. Our membership includes representatives from all 12 parishes in our corner of the state, as well as representation by state and federal agencies. We’re making great progress toward our goal: a Northeast Louisiana free of homelessness where all people feel safe and valued!