Myths About Homelessness

As many of you may have already heard, the endeared man named Melvin, who used to live on the stoop outside of CityCo near Kenmore Square, passed away recently. He was beloved by BU students, not only because he was always ready to share a smile or show appreciation for your stolen apple from the dining hall, but also because he was the ever present reminder that we are not on an isolated campus. He showed us every day that there are no walls that separate Boston University from the rest of the world. Every week, we are told that we are learning and growing and improving so that we can one day go out into society and make a difference. Melvin reminded us that that difference is pertinent, and that difference should be made now.

As people posted status and messages ridden with “RIP” and “You will always be remembered,” one cannot help but think how informed the student body truly is on what it means to be a person experiencing homelessness. This article will address some of those myths associated with homelessness.

MYTH: Homelessness is only by choice

People experiencing homelessness are not lazy; they are sleep deprived, cold, wet, sick, exhausted in body and mind, but not lazy. Some women experiencing homelessness may have had to avoid a situation of domestic violence. Some people may have just experienced a trauma. Some may be experiencing mental illness or PTS. There is more to a person than meets the eye.

MYTH: People experiencing homelessness just need to get a job

According to a study in 2002 by the Urban Institute, nearly one half of adults experiencing homelessness has worked within the past month. A third of people experiencing chronic homelessness end up going back to work. Keep in mind that even if they find work, this low income may not be able to sustain them.

MYTH: People experiencing homelessness are really dangerous

There is often the assumption that homelessness has arisen from crime, substance abuse, violence, or drug and alcohol problems. However, it has been shown that few people experiencing homelessness commit crimes against those of us who truly intend to help them.

MYTH: Shelters only promote a prolongation of homelessness

Homelessness is not long term; in fact, people are usually experiencing homelessness for two days up until a month. The people who enter shelters and leave after a month are likely to never have to return.

MYTH: Homelessness will never happen to me

It is hard to predict losing a job, a home, your family. Life comes together and life falls apart just as easily. Talk to a person experiencing homelessness, and you will see that they never intended their life to end up like this; you cannot predict your future.

Your next question may be, how can I help? Good question. Right on our campus you can find the Community Service Center. Get involved by joining an alternative spring break program in March, joining the Student Food and Rescue missions, or even becoming a FYSOP staff member. Join the community service sorority Omega Phi Alpha, the community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, or just get a group of friends together to make a trip to the Red Cross Food Pantry or a soup kitchen. Stay informed and get involved. Do it for Melvin. Do it because you can.