Editorial: Myths about homeless dispelled

Not all homeless people are addicted, and getting a job is harder than it may seem.

If we’re going to have a discussion about the homelessness problem in the Langleys, it would be helpful if the opinions expressed were based on facts.

So here are some things you ought to know, courtesy of a true-and-false online quiz posted by the stophomelessness.ca website (You can learn more by visiting the site).

1. Most homeless people don’t sleep on the street.

Researchers estimate that up to four out of five homeless use shelters, sleep in their vehicles, or “couch-surf.”

2. Homeless people often sleep during the day in public places, not out of laziness, but because they don’t have a safe place to sleep at night.

3. It is a myth to say all homeless people are addicts or alcoholics. Studies show that less than half suffer from addictions.

4. It’s not just adults. There are homeless children.  The 2011 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count found there were at least 54 kids, accompanied by adults who were homeless.

5. That panhandler who scared you? Not necessarily homeless. Some have housing and panhandle to supplement their income.

6. Homelessness is not just a big city issue.

The 2011 homeless count found the largest increases in homelessness occurred in Langley and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows.

7. Canada is the only G8 country that does not have a national housing plan, which means there is no co-ordinated strategy to get people off the streets.

8. It may be emotionally satisfying to say homeless people should just get a job, but the reality is a little more complicated. People who are homeless face many challenges in getting and keeping employment.

Without an address or phone it is, to say the least, a challenge to apply for work and receive calls from possible employers.

Many employers require certain equipment or clothing, like work boots and hard hats. Things that working people need to do, like take a shower, wear clean clothes and pay for transportation are also difficult for the homeless.

The questionnaire asserts three things need to happen to end homelessness:

1) an adequate income;

2) affordable housing;

3) support services for those who need them.

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