As a ministry that raises money to fund its work, a lot of our job entails telling people about the mission, and about the people we help. Sometimes this means explaining why some of the most common misconceptions about the homeless are just that—misconceptions.
Misconception 1. All homeless are panhandlers, and all panhandlers are homeless.
We’re often asked about the best way to help people who are standing by the side of the road, or approach you, asking for money. We never discourage people from helping in some way like buying food for the person(s) if they feel led to do so, but we also suggest they direct this person to a mission like ours.
What we also want people to understand is that the vast majority of homeless people never panhandle and in fact, some (but not all) people who panhandle are not homeless.
Misconception 2. All they need is a job, a car, and a home to fix all their problems.
The truth is, the problems are often much deeper than a simple lack of resources. Even if every person who comes to the mission was given these things, many still need help to overcome the root causes of their homelessness.
Part of the New Life Program offered at the mission is equipping our clients so that when they acquire these things, they are able to maintain them, and live a life of stability. We are committed to providing more hope for more people in Jesus’ name!
Misconception 3. The homeless are just lazy.
The belief that homeless people are lazy is almost always untrue. Just like with any other group of people, some of them are lazy. But people do not become homeless simply because they are lazy.
We have had the privilege to help many, many men and women at the mission who have been hard-working and industrious. They are full of knowledge, and are willing to help others in need, even when they need help themselves.
Misconception 4. If I can beat the odds and become successful, so can they.
Every once in a while we meet someone who believes the best way to help the homeless is to not help them at all, so they can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” This method works for some people, but for many of the people with whom we work, some help and accountability is necessary.
What some people forget is that not everyone has been born into a stable family, with the support, love, and teaching that comes with it. One of the most common denominators in homelessness is a background of instability and abuse (physical, emotional, mental, and sexual). While some people are able to overcome these obstacles, many people are not.
When the hardships of early life are not overcome, this can result in a cycle of bad decisions that result in homelessness. Our goal is to help people break the cycle, heal lifelong wounds, and nurture the stability they may have never had before.
Misconception 5. All homeless people are alcoholics or drug users.
Many of the people we work with have abused drugs or alcohol in their past. But many have not. It’s as simple as that.
The most important conclusion we hope people will come to is that not all homeless people are the same. The circumstances that lead to homelessness are as varied as the circumstances that lead to success and wealth.