HOMELESSNESS: Time to Debunk the Myths?

–Homelessness is not a choice, but rather a journey that many find themselves in.

“The biggest misconception about the homeless is that they got themselves in the mess — let them get themselves out.” –Ron Hall

Myths are widely held thoughts or beliefs that are not generally true. Beyond just being misinformation, myths often create negative attitudes and even prejudice. This is most often the case when it comes to understanding homelessness. It’s time to debunk the myths.

MYTH: People are homeless by choice. FACT: People are homeless for a wide variety of reasons, a good number of which are at least partly and often mainly beyond a person’s control.  Homelessness occurs when people or households are unable to acquire and/or maintain housing. Two significant factors that account for homelessness are the lack of jobs that pay a living wage and the lack of affordable housing. Additionally, people lose jobs and then housing. Women run away to the street to escape domestic violence. Many people have experienced significant trauma and cannot cope with life. Others struggle with mental illness, depression, or post-traumatic stress. Yes, poor choices can contribute to homelessness. But outside circumstances strongly influence those choices.

MYTH: If people experiencing homelessness wanted to, they could pull themselves out of it. FACT: Once an individual or family loses their home, getting back into housing can feel nearly impossible. Most people lose housing because of financial situations – they simply do not have enough money to provide housing for themselves/their families. Many because of job loss and/or underemployment. Imagine trying to get a job when you have no address to put on a resume, no phone number, no shower, and no clean-pressed clothes. Often, things like physical, mental, and emotional health, lack of transportation, and legal issues, hinder progress even more.

MYTH: Most people experiencing homelessness are addicted to drugs or alcohol. FACT: While many people experiencing homelessness do report having a substance abuse issue, most report that the addiction occurred AFTER they became homeless and was not the cause of their homelessness. Often, people experiencing homelessness turn to alcohol or drugs to dull the realities that come with living on the street.

MYTH: People experiencing homelessness need to “just get a job”. FACT: Getting a job is a challenge for most people these days and incredibly difficult for homeless people. Most lack clean clothes, showers, transportation, a permanent address, and a phone number. Others have a criminal past, learning disabilities, and a lack of education that holds them down. Others have a source of income through employment, disability, and/or VA benefits; however, their income is insufficient to afford housing. Thus, even if a homeless person can find work, their low income often cannot sustain them.​

MYTH: People experiencing homelessness are dangerous. FACT: Homelessness is often associated with drugs, alcohol, violence, and crime. Life on the streets can be perilous for homeless men and women, but very few crimes are committed by people experiencing homelessness against those of us who try to help them.

MYTH: People experiencing homelessness are lazy. FACT: Surviving on the street takes more work than we realize. Homeless men and women are often sleep-deprived, cold, wet, and sick. Their minds, hearts, and bodies are exhausted. With no transportation and little money, they can spend all day getting to food and maybe an appointment before they need to search for a safe place to sleep, all while trying to keep their personal possessions safe. It is not a life of ease.

MYTH: Homelessness will never happen to me. FACT: People experiencing homelessness never intended or expected to become homeless. They never thought they would become homeless. They’ve had solid jobs, houses, and families. But at some point, life fell apart. Even people on relatively sound financial footing are not immune to a series of unfortunate events leading to homelessness.

MYTH: Providing food and shelter only enables people to remain homeless. FACT: Food and shelter are essentials for life. We build relationships with people in need by offering these and other outreach services, like restrooms and mail service. Then we’re able to offer them something more through our recovery programs, like counseling, addiction recovery, emotional healing, spiritual guidance, education, life skills, and job training.


¹ Source: THHI

Let’s change the narrative, starting with the word “Homeless” which is stigmatizing and conjures up misconceptions while carrying a negative connotation. “Unsheltered” is more neutral, and casts a wider net beyond unhoused, including those whose primary nighttime residence is unsuitable for human habitation (i.e., a city sidewalk, vehicle, abandoned building, or park).

It’s time for real stories to be told by the unsheltered and by those who can speak about and for them so we can debunk the myths  “for good”…


CLICK FOR PRESS RELEASE ►  Breakthrough Unsheltered Anthology Book Series Launched


  • those who; are currently unsheltered/homeless; have been unsheltered/homeless in the past
  • those who have been affected indirectly/a degree removed from being unsheltered/homeless (family members, friends, co-workers, etc. .)
  • those who are familiar with the personal and global effects of the unsheltered/homeless population,
  • organizations and causes who are on the ground facing daily struggles with those who are unsheltered/homeless and who have stories to tell.


Dennis Pitocco
Dennis Pitocco
DENNIS is the Founder & Chief ReImaginator of 360° Nation, encompassing a wide range of multimedia enterprises, including BizCatalyst 360° —the award-winning global media digest; 360° Nation Studios —dedicated to reaching across the world in an effort to capture, produce, and deliver positive, uplifting messages via blockbuster global events, and; GoodWorks 360° —a pro-bono consulting foundation focused entirely on providing mission-critical advisory services to nonprofits worldwide. Collaborating with his Chief Inspiration Officer (and wife), Ali, everything they do is "for-good" vs. "for profit". Their mission over the past decade-plus has been to rediscover humanity at its best, influencing and showcasing it every step of the way. Together, they do their very best to figure out what the world is trying to be —then using all their resources to help it to be better every day in every way. They understand and embrace the notion that it’s not about me or you; it’s about caring for the people we serve and more responsibly stewarding the precious resources in our care. And they believe it’s about showing up, being present, and intentionally giving our invaluable gifts of time, talent, and treasure "for good". Dennis is a contributing author to these Best-Selling Books ♦ Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational ChangeJourney Well, You Are More Than EnoughThe Four-Fold Formula For All Things Wellness: True Stories of the Heart, Spirit, Mind, and Body Voices of Strength Win the Wellness W.A.R. We Are Responsible

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  1. Stories need to be told for sure. I can’t imagine being unsheltered, and I’ve been fortunate to this point to have a roof over my head, food on my table, and clothes on my back. But to think of those who don’t is heartwrenching. And honestly, I’ve never known what to do to help. I’m ashamed of that fact – that I’ve often walked by with a tug in my throat and not known what to do. Or was too hurried to make the time to do something? Perhaps even too scared.

    I remember a few years back I had an appointment to take my car in for service. I was early to the appointment and didn’t want to sit in the waiting room longer than needed. It was early in the morning, so I decided to stop at Market 32 and grab an apple fritter and a coffee. It was fall, so the morning had a chill in the air. An apple fritter and coffee seemed like an apt choice to start the day. And my stomach was growling. I could almost taste the first bite with a big chunk of soft apple mixed with cinnamon; and the way the coffee would wash it down appealed to my hunger and my need for caffeine.

    As I drove into the shopping center, I noticed an unsheltered man near the traffic lights that lead you into and out of the center. I remember that he wore a plaid flannel and his hair was dark and curly. He looked dishelved and cold. If I had to guess, he may have been in his 50s. Then again, his age didn’t matter. What mattered is that he too was probably hungry that morning. But unlike me, he didn’t have the money to pop into the market and get himself breakfast. And that brought me to tears as I went through the now green light and navigated to a parking space. I remember I had to take a minute to compose myself before exiting my car.

    I recall that he held up a sign but I don’t remember what it exactly said other than asking for help. I felt this connection to him, and I’ve no idea why. He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him. But there was an honesty and sadness in his eyes. He seemed humble as I observed him while I was stopped at the light. I wondered if there was a reason that we had crossed paths, especially since I’m not usually that early for an appointment. But, I knew the minute I drove past him that I would buy him breakfast. I wasn’t sure what to get him, and reflecting back, maybe I should have stopped and asked him first. I decided on a big bottle of Orange Juice and a couple of muffins. They were plenty big and I guess I hoped he’d be able to make more than one meal out of them. And that the Orange Juice would give him some Vitamin C, and hopefully quench his thirst. Thinking about it now, there are many things I would have done differently.

    Anyway, I paid for my things and got back into my car. I pulled up near where this gentleman was standing and rolled down my window. He approached the car slowly and hope had settled in his eyes now. We exchanged “Good Morning,” and I offered him the Orange Juice and the bag of freshly baked muffins. I won’t forget the look on his face – like someone cared. He was so gracious and kind. He spoke softly and for a moment, I saw his eyes smile. I wish I had taken more time. But I will never regret our brief exchange and being able to help him in a small way. His parting words to me were “God Bless You.” I said thank you, and I prayed as I drove away that he would be blessed back. I still get choked up with tears in my eyes when I think about it.

    I hope he was blessed in some way. This unsheltered stranger who was trying so hard to survive – this human being who deserves a chance – like any one of us.

    • What a sobering, sad, inspiring story here, Laura. The difference here (unlike most folks who encounter the homeless) is you looked him in the eye, listened to him, and in his world, you confirmed that he was not only human, but no longer invisible. Please allow us to publish your above story as an Article under you byline, as this will resonated with many, my friend.