By Emily Emshoff

This is the fourth installment of the blog series “Simple Truths: debunking common stereotypes surrounding those experiencing homelessness.” You can find the introduction to this series here.

As we continue our series breaking down the many stereotypes surrounding homelessness, we are discussing one that many people can relate to.

Imagine you are walking down the street and you pass someone who fits the description of being homeless. They may ask you for money, or maybe they are holding a sign asking for help; maybe there is no interaction at all. As human beings, we begin to justify why we choose to help or not. And, as humans, we judge others at first glance. We begin to wonder how this person got into the situation they are in and maybe think, “It’s their fault that they are homeless. They shouldn’t have [insert action here]; they should have [insert action here].

The stereotype is largely that if someone ends up homeless and living on the street, it is their fault. Circumstances that lead to homelessness, however, are often not preventable, or are unpredictable.

 

Lack of Affordable Housing

A few figures: Georgia’s minimum wage is $7.25/hr. To afford the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment, someone working at a job that pays minimum wage would need to work 84 hours a week – more than double the hours of that of an average work week.  Even if two members of a household were working full-time, they would not be able to afford rent, along with the rest of the life’s expenses. This leads to a lack of affordable housing, which in turn leads to a family experiencing homelessness. In fact, 44 percent of people experiencing homelessness are employed.

There are currently campaigns all over the country advocating for a raise in the minimum wage. You can read more about it here.

 

Lack of Employment Opportunities

As we all know, the economy has had its ups and down over the past several years. Finding a job is hard for those who have a stable home and living environment, so imagine how hard it is for those who have nowhere to call home.

If you have ever been employed, think about the application and hiring process for a minute. One of the first steps is to send in your resume, or apply for a job online.  If you have no home, chances are you lack access to a computer and internet; therefore, you lack the access to the first basic steps of finding employment.

Say you get an interview with a potential employer. You buy a nice suit, take a shower, shave and make yourself look presentable for the interview. If you have no home, you lack the ability to do these things, lowering your chances of receiving a job offer.

Limited skills and experience, as well as a lack of education or training are also factors that affect those experiencing homelessness that are seeking employment.

 

There are many other circumstances that lead to homelessness such as lack of affordable health care, disability and illness, domestic violence and others.

Thirty-nine percent of those experiencing homelessness are under the age of 18; about half of those are under the age of five. Is it their fault?

Try out this interactive game that puts you in the position of someone facing unforeseen circumstances. What would you do? Was it your fault?

 

Last year over 4,400 unique persons stayed at Gateway Center in their journey towards self-sufficiency and out of homelessness.  $10 provides meals for a day for one client. Every dollar counts.  Make a donation today.