Myths and Facts

Myths About Homelessness

Myth 1: People choose to be homeless

Fact 1:

People do not choose 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.

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

Fact 2:

104,000 people are homeless on any given night in Australia, of that only 15-20% are chronically homeless, and 5% are rough sleepers.[1] The majority of people who become homeless remain so for short periods. In practice, most homeless people move frequently from one form of temporary accommodation to another, often spending occasional nights in the rough sleeper population.[2]

Myth 3: Most homeless people are men.

Fact 3:

Census night 2006: the counted homeless were 56% men and 44% women.[3] Women are less likely to sleep rough and their homelessness is less visible.

Myth 4: Why bother solving homelessness?

Fact 4:

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.[4]

Myth 5: Homelessness can never happen to me

Fact 5:

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.[5]

Myth 6: All homeless people are alcoholics

Fact 6:

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.[6]

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Footnotes: 

1. Chamberlain, C. & MacKenzie, D. 2006, Counting the homeless Australia 2006, cat. no. HOU 213, Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra

2. Chamberlain, C., Johnson, G. & Theobald, J. 2007, Homelessness in Melbourne: Confronting the challenge, Centre for Applied Social Research, RMTT University, p.14

3. Chamberlain, C. & MacKenzie, D. 2006, Counting the homeless Australia 2006, cat. no. HOU 213, Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra

4. Reynolds, F. 2008, Churchill Fellowship Report, The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia, p.8

5. Chamberlain, C., Johnson, G. & Theobald, J. 2007, Homelessness in Melbourne: Confronting the challenge, Centre for Applied Social Research, RMTT University, p.16

6. Chamberlain, C., Johnson, G. & Theobald, J. 2007, Homelessness in Melbourne: Confronting the challenge, Centre for Applied Social Research, RMTT University