Myths about homelessness are common and hurtful. The first step to help people experiencing homelessness is to learn about the issue, help spread awareness, and dispel hurtful stereotypes.

1. MYTH: Homeless people are lazy and don’t want to work.

FACT: People can have full time jobs and still not make enough money to afford stable housing. Many people experience homelessness despite having jobs or otherwise face barriers to employment.

2. MYTH: Fighting Homelessness is expensive.

FACT: Studies show that housing people reduces the costs of homelessness for jails, hospitals, and social services. Supportive housing can reduce taxpayer costs by an average of 49.5%.

3. MYTH: Homeless people are often dangerous criminals.

FACT: People who experience homelessness are more likely to be the victim of crime than they are to commit a violent crime. Approximately half of people experiencing homelessness have reported experiencing a violent attack.

4. MYTH: All homeless people are severely mentally ill or addicted to drugs.

FACT: About 1 in 5 Americans experiences some form of mental illness. The majority of people who experience mental health or substance use disorders are housed, not homeless. The majority of people who experience homelessness do not have severe mental health or substance use disorders, though these occur at relatively higher rates for the homeless population. Mental health is manageable with proper access to healthcare, counseling, medications, and a social support network. Homelessness is associated with higher rates of trauma, higher rates of chronic illnesses, and lower access to resources for managing health.

5. MYTH: Homelessness is a choice.

FACT: Nobody enjoys living outdoors during subzero weather or a heatwave. Nationally and locally, there is a shortage of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing solutions. People do not choose homelessness, but may be denied help or choose to reject services due to systemic barriers to housing, discrimination in services, or overcrowding at shelters.

How Do We End Homelessness?

Homelessness is a public health crisis. As a society, we need to advocate for laws that increase access to housing, healthcare, and resources to improve the wellbeing of communities. Advocacy can take many forms, including campaigns to raise awareness, educating your community, organizing events, volunteering at a homeless shelter, and connecting with your elected officials

YOU can help end homelessness!

Check out the Advocates’ Guide to Housing Policy!

The Issues: 

  • Since 1980, housing affordability has been the key driver of increases in homelessness. The shortage of affordable housing for extremely low-income households affects every community across the country.
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  • Every year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awards Homeless Assistance Grants to communities that administer housing and services at the local level. Congress should invest in proven solutions to homelessness.
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  • People experiencing homelessness have higher rates of illness and significantly lower life expectancies than the general population. Poor health can lead to financial insecurity, unexpected medical bills, job loss, and homelessness. Homelessness creates new health problems and exacerbates existing conditions due to a lack of access to healthcare and housing. Recovery and healing are even more difficult without housing.
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  • Rather than providing adequate housing options, too many communities criminalize homelessness by making it illegal for people to sit, sleep, or even eat in public places, despite the absence of adequate alternatives. These laws and policies violate constitutional, civil, and human rights, traumatize homeless individuals and negatively impact their physical and mental health, and create arrest records, fines, and fees that stand in the way of securing jobs or housing.
  • Click here to take action!
  • Minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour since July 2009 when it was last increased, despite two-thirds of Americans supporting raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Today, a living wage for Lawrence, KS is estimated to be at least $19.87 dollars an hour.
  • Contact your state representative and encourage them to support legislation to raise Kansas’ minimum wage. You can also contact the Chair of the Committee holding up the bills, Rep. Sean Tarwater, at 785-296-7685. 

Did You Know?

Americans who experience chronic homelessness have an average life expectancy of about 47.6 years of age on average, or 30 years LOWER than non-homeless Americans.
Homelessness is on the rise due to increasing poverty and a shortage of affordable housing. In 2020, the poverty rate for Lawrence, KS was 65% higher than the national average.
Homelessness is linked to trauma. Most, if not all, homeless individuals have been exposed to high levels of traumatic stress, including childhood trauma.
Homelessness is an issue of racial equity and justice. Black Americans are 5x more likely to experience homelessness than white Americans, and Native Americans are 4x more likely to experience homelessness than white Americans.
Among mothers with children experiencing homelessness, more than 80% have previously experienced domestic violence.
More than half of the homeless population has experienced traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) compared to 2.6% of the general population. Without access to needed healthcare, this affects mental health and results in barriers to housing and employment.
Laws that criminalize homelessness have increased during the past decade, including laws that ban sleeping in public, camping, or panhandling. Across the US, an arrest occurs every 3 seconds: 80% of those arrests are for nonviolent conduct that’s associated with poverty, homelessness, and mental illness.
Nationally, chronic homelessness is projected to increase by 49% over the next 4 years.
The Right to Adequate Housing was recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights. When people are housed, then they are better positioned for behavioral health recovery and lifelong wellness.