Myths About Homelessness
Myth 1: People choose to be homeless
People do not choose to be homeless. In order to survive, some people will adapt to their circumstances. This is quite different to making a choice to be homeless.
Homelessness is often the result of many inter-connected factors – some of these are family breakdown, abuse, trauma, disability, addictions and illness. It is always about poverty and a severe shortage of affordable housing.
Homelessness can be very unsafe and many people who experience chronic homelessness are vulnerable. It is important to acknowledge the stress and difficulties inherent in becoming and remaining homeless.
Myth 2: all homeless people live on the streets or in parks
116,427 people are homeless on any given night in Australia, of that only 15-20% are chronically homeless, and 7% are rough sleepers. The majority of people who become homeless remain so for short periods and have few or no additional support needs. In practice, most homeless people move frequently from one form of temporary accommodation to another, often spending occasional nights in the rough sleeper population.
Myth 3: Most homeless people are men
Census night 2016: the counted homeless were 58% men and 42% women. Women are less likely to sleep rough and their homelessness is less visible.
Myth 4: Why bother solving homelessness?
Homelessness, especially street homelessness, is very unsafe and detrimental to health. People who experience chronic homelessness have a life expectancy gap of up to 30 years compared to their peers in housing. 
It costs significant amounts to sustain someone in a state of chronic homelessness. Use of crisis services, emergency departments, acute hospital admissions, crisis mental health care, detoxification centres as well as police responses, ambulances, court and prison costs all add to the total cost and tragedy of chronic homelessness.
Research has shown that it can cost the same amount or less to provide people with suitable housing and good support to sustain that housing as it does to provide crisis services.
Myth 5: Homelessness can never happen to me
No one is immune from potentially becoming homeless. Studies have shown that just a few unfortunate events can turn someone’s life around completely. It may be the loss of a partner, an unexpected expense or an eviction at short notice.
Myth 6: All homeless people are addicts
Some homeless people have addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. They are not the majority. Some people pick up drugs or alcohol after they have become homeless. The majority of people with addictions live in their own home.
1. ABS 2016 Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016
2. Chamberlain, C., Johnson, G. & Theobald, J. 2007, Homelessness in Melbourne: Confronting the challenge, Centre for Applied Social Research, RMTT University, p.14
3. ABS 2016 Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016
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