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Negative Perceptions Hurt: Attitudes Toward The Homeless

While most of us never consider what it would be like to endure homelessness and poverty, there are over 9,200 people in Toronto who face these issues. Many stigmas and myths have led to prejudice against homeless people. However, these assumptions are often incorrect, and very hurtful to people who are experiencing homelessness.  

Homelessness and Poverty Are Choices

In most cases, homelessness is not a choice. Many homeless people are forced to live on the streets because they faced eviction or lost their house in a market crash. Others are forced into homelessness because they struggle with mental illness or addictions.

These struggles can make it difficult for them to live on their own, and take proper actions to keep a roof over their head. Some homeless people searched for housing in the past, but couldn’t afford rent, couldn’t find a job with enough income, couldn’t find housing, or had criminal records and were denied housing. 

Homeless People Are Drug Addicts

Elderly homeless woman sitting outside

Just because someone is homeless does not mean that they are a drug addict. In fact, only a portion of the homeless population is addicted to drugs.

It is true that sometimes drug addictions can cause homelessness. It is also true that a person may turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with their situation. Either way, addiction is a complex condition and very often an unaddressed mental health issue.

Homeless People Are Lazy

Homeless man holding a sign that says willing to work

While it may be easy for people with homes to find a job, it is much more difficult for those who are homeless. People experiencing homelessness rarely have access to clean clothes, showers, transportation, and phones, all of which are crucial for finding and maintaining a job.

Some homeless people may even have a criminal background, mental illness, or lack of education, which prevents them from finding employment. Other homeless people have jobs, but they get paid minimum wage, which prevents them from maintaining a house.

Homeless People Are Violent and Dangerous

Although many people perceive homeless people as dangerous, they are more likely to be the victims of violence. The few homeless people prone to violence often prey on others living on the street, not non-homeless people. Therefore, most violence among homeless people is self-defense. Non-homeless people need to understand that they are in little danger from homeless people.

Homeless People Are Criminals

Admittedly, homeless people are more likely to have a criminal record than non-homeless people.

However, they are not dangerous criminals. Often, homeless people get a criminal record after they are homeless because they are arrested for trespassing, littering, or loitering.

Homelessness in Toronto Encourages People to Take Advantage of the System

Homeless person sleeping out on the street

Most homeless people do not receive social assistance benefits. Those who do, are not receiving enough money to cover the expense of owning or renting a home. Social assistance benefits cover less than half of the rent for a small apartment in Toronto.

Since homeless people often cannot find employment or work at minimum wage, this is not enough for them to live in a home. Therefore, homeless people cannot take advantage of the system.