April 6, 2016
Some myths about homelessness get repeated so often that they become accepted as absolute truths. Adam Murray, executive director of Inner City Law Center, debunks four dangerous myths:
“Some people just want to live on the street.”
The truth is that many individuals simply have no place to go. Shelters may threaten individuals’ safety, require separating families, and may submit people to demoralizing rules. Also, homelessness criminalization further marginalizes this community.
“People choose L.A. as a place to be homeless because of the warm weather.”
Seriously? Homelessness is not an issue that has been imported, or that could be exported. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority found that only 7% of people who are homeless arrived in the county less than a year ago.
“Most homeless people are mentally ill.”
Although 8% of those surveyed self-identified as struggling with mental health issues, homelessness is primarily a symptom of poverty. In Los Angeles County, 289,144 people spend 90% of their income on rent and have household incomes that don’t even reach halfway to the poverty line. 289,144 people are at risk of being homeless!
“Homelessness is too expensive and complex to solve.”
Studies confirm that unattended homelessness is more expensive than money spent providing housing and services to those who are homeless (or at high risk of it) is recouped on medical care, policing and prisons.
These myths generalize and criminalizes homelessness and encourage unfavorable policies. “[W]ith more than 31,000 people sleeping in parks and on sidewalks every night in Los Angeles County, fallacies should not drive homeless policies.” Murray.