Are the homeless to blame for their homelessness?

by | Jun 10, 2021 | Formation, Homelessness, Reflections

Are the homeless to blame for their homelessness?

Yes… and no!

Yes, if you stay on the surface with stereotypes. But no, once you realize the complexities beneath the surface.

When faced with the reality of the homelessness crisis in the United States, many people start finding ways to blame individuals for “causing” their homelessness.

Invisible people features an article addressing the topic Homelessness is Not a Personal Failure. Taylor Griggs is especially passionate about social justice, mental health and environmental issues. Visit a listing of her articles listed at Invisible people.

Here are key points from her most recent article.

Having a place to live is more precarious than people who have never been homeless or on the verge of homelessness might think. Time and time again, a poorly timed job loss or an unexpected crisis can cause people who never thought they would become homeless to lose their housing.

It’s easy for people who’ve never experienced being unhoused to blame individuals for “causing” their homelessness. They resort to accusing them of doing things that they would never do to alleviate any anxiety about their economic status. For example, assuming all homeless people do drugs. If you’ve never struggled with addiction, then you could never end up homeless. Right? Wrong.

Nobody expects to end up homeless. And, regardless of their background, nobody deserves to be. The truth is the events that are often the impetus to homelessness are not rare. They certainly cannot be written off as someone’s bad decision.

Here’s a breakdown of two of the most common reasons that someone might become homeless. These catalysts often stack on top of each other. Some people might experience these things without becoming homeless because they are lucky enough to have a safety net to fall back on if they have a crisis. But remember, in our economically precarious society that offers very little guaranteed government assistance for people in need, that safety net could fall apart at any moment.

Factors that may lead to someone losing their housing vary depending on the person. They include:

  • Job loss
  • Mental Illness
  • Addiction
  • Experiencing abuse
  • Disability
  • Family disputes

However, these are not personal failures and should not result in homelessness. It’s important to destigmatize mental illness and drug use. We must debunk the myths around why people become homeless so we can move toward solutions. Real change cannot happen when so many people still bristle at seeing homeless encampments. Most never stop to put themselves in the shoes of the people they see suffering from homelessness.

Creating Change at the Structural Level

Truthfully, the reasons that an individual might become homeless do not matter. Regardless of one’s history, one deserves compassion and assistance. But there is no way to know what someone has experienced just by looking at them. If you took the time to talk to homeless people, you would know that they are not a homogenous group. They are only guaranteed to share two things:

  • A lack of structural resources that would help get them back on their feet
  • Disrespect from ignorant neighbors who fail to put themselves in someone else’s shoes

If you want to do something constructive, contact your legislators and tell them you support affordable housing solutions.


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