Homelessness is a complex issue with no “one-size-fits-all” reason, or solution. There are many reasons why a person can become homeless. And every individual’s situation is unique. Therefore, it’s the goal of WAMITS to:
- Help our homeless men, women and children who currently reside on streets of San Diego.
- Recruit and train volunteers from the community who would like to get involved in this important and rewarding work.
- Educate our community about the causes of homelessness in general and, specifically, the homeless situation in San Diego. Each city has their own unique challenges that must be understood in order for corrective action to succeed.
Some Myths & Facts about Homelessness
Myth 1. “Everyone who is homeless is mentally ill or addicted to drugs”
Fact: The majority of those receiving assistance from area shelters do not suffer from mental illness or chemical addiction. In fact, according to Homeless Alliance* data, less than a quarter (24%) experience mental illness and less than a third (29%) experience chemical addiction. Those experiencing homelessness include families, victims of domestic violence, the developmentally disabled, and veterans.
Myth 2. “There are a lot of people who just want to rip off the system and live off the government.”
Fact: In a study of homeless and very low-income persons frequenting soup kitchens and food pantries conducted by the Homeless Alliance, those receiving public assistance such as Food Stamps and Medicaid at the time of the study were less likely to be homeless. However, the grants available for public assistance have not been raised since 1990 and the cost of basic necessities such as food, housing, transportation, and health care have risen significantly.
Myth 3. “People become homeless because they can’t manage their money.”
Fact: There are a variety of reasons that members of our community become homeless. For example, an illness can lead to job loss and debt, which can in turn lead to rental arrears, resulting in eventual eviction. Other causes of homelessness include domestic violence, loss of public assistance, physical disabilities that are a barrier to employment, or unsafe housing conditions.
Myth 4 . “Most people who are homeless choose to be homeless.”
Fact: In surveys conducted by The Homeless Alliance, the greatest need identified by those experiencing homelessness was safe and affordable housing . Rental allowances provided by the city, county and state agencies, fall far short of the fair market rent for the in most urban areas leaving safe, adequate, and affordable housing out of reach.
Portrayals of the homeless in our culture can perpetuate the myth of homelessness being a choice. In some cases, those who experience long-term homelessness do not trust the system or have chosen to disengage because of requirements they are not able to meet. Often, this can be a result of mental illness.
When understood this way, is it really a choice?
*data from research conducted by the Homeless Alliance of Western New York