By: Staci Wright 

The definition of the word “stereotype,” according to Dictionary.com, is:  “a set of inaccurate, simplistic generalizations about a group that allows others to categorize them and treat them accordingly.” There are stereotypes for groups of races, cultures, religions, genders, sexuality and other groups of individuals. Through a simple web-search I was able to find some examples of common stereotypes which include, but are not limited to:

  • “All Asians have high IQ’s”
  • “All African-Americans are good at sports”
  • “All Hispanics are illegal aliens”
  • “All Arabs and Muslims hate America”
  • “All White people are racist”
  • “All Native Americans love to gamble”

The list of stereotypes goes on and on. So much that I just shake my head while reading down a list of them, thinking of all the ways that they are so untrue. Personally, I can set straight every single stereotype listed above, and I’m sure you can too. Though, the purpose for this blog is not to debunk the stereotypes above, but to expose the stereotypes associated with people experiencing homelessness.

Growing up in a small town, I did not fully understand the issue of homelessness. Sure, we had a few people who were known around the town as the town “bums” whom I could probably count on one hand. I did not understand the overlying issue of homelessness, nor the circumstances that could cause someone to be without a home of their own. All I knew about it was what I was told. It was not until college that my eyes and ears were finally opened to the truth; only to be reaffirmed when I began my job at Gateway Center. Here, I have formed personal relationships with those experiencing homelessness.  I get to know them, not just their situation. I get to hear their story, not the story others are telling for them. It is with this new awareness that I bring to you: Simple Truths: debunking common stereotypes surrounding those experiencing homelessness.

I am sure you have heard them; you may have even thought them yourself at one point in time (I will admit to it). These stereotypes, however, literally drown a group of people who are already so shut-down, so vulnerable, and commonly overlooked. A group where not every situation is the same, and everyone has their own story. And a group that, like others, just need a little bit of help. By doing this series, I hope to shed light on six stereotypes commonly associated with homelessness:

  1. “All homeless people are dirty, smelly and mentally ill”
  2. “All homeless people are criminals”
  3. “If someone ended up on the street it is their own fault”
  4. “Homeless people are lazy, why don’t they get a job?”
  5. “Most of them want money to fuel their drug and alcohol problems”
  6. “Whatever I do to help is not going to help the bigger issue of homelessness. Leave it to the professionals.”

We hope you will follow along with this blog series as we present these simple truths. Read them, learn from them and keep an open-mind. Also, feel free to share your story. Maybe you have once experienced homelessness, maybe you know someone else who has, or maybe you just have an amazing encounter/experience that touched you. We would love to hear about it!