Dispelling myths about homelessness can help end the stigma surrounding people who are experiencing homelessness.
THERE ARE MORE HOMELESS PEOPLE THAN EVER.
Since GRACE opened in 2014, we've helped reduce homelessness by 40%, and unsheltered homelessness by almost 53%. Tonight, there are fewer than 700 people without housing in Alachua County, down from over 1,200 people just seven years ago.
PROVIDING FOOD AND SHELTER TO PEOPLE ONLY ENABLES THEM TO REMAIN HOMELESS.
Food and shelter are essentials of life. By offering these and other basic needs like restrooms, showers, laundry, and computer access, we build relationships with people in need and move them from survival to problem-solving mode once their most basic needs are met.
PEOPLE WANT TO BE HOMELESS.
People lose jobs, which leads to losing housing. Women flee abusive partners and lose access to income or shelter. Many have experienced significant trauma, struggle with health problems, or post-traumatic stress – all conditions exacerbated by the insecurity of life on the street.
Each year, we survey the homeless population to learn how we can better support them. As part of this, we ask, "If affordable housing was available to you and met your needs, would you be interested in moving into that housing?" Consistently, more than 95% of the total homeless population reports that they would take housing if it was affordable.
HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE ADDICTS.
Just like in the housed population, addiction is an issue that many people struggle with. Substance abuse can play a role in someone becoming homeless, but it is typically a result of someone becoming homeless. People in traumatic situations often turn to less-than-healthy coping mechanisms when they don't have access to adequate services.
A 2008 study found that among all homeless people with substance abuse issues, only 1 in 3 had those issues prior to becoming homeless. At the end of the day, the rate of substance misuse within the entire homeless population is more or less the same as in the housed community – about 20% of the population. It's just harder to see when it happens behind closed doors.
HOMELESS PEOPLE JUST NEED TO GET A JOB.
Many people experiencing homelessness do have income, but it is not enough to afford housing and other expenses. Most nights, about half of the people in our shelter report having some form of income. Those who don't are regularly looking for employment, but that can be difficult when dealing with health problems, a lack of transportation, gaps in employment, and other barriers.
When the wages people earn don't add up to what housing costs, we will have homelessness. It's as simple as that. A person working a minimum-wage job in Florida needs to work 93 hours a week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment.
HOMELESSNESS IS PERMANENT. WE CAN NEVER "END" HOMELESSNESS.
Homelessness does end, one person at a time. When we tailor our services to the needs of people on the street, we see community-wide impacts like Alachua County's 40% reduction in homelessness since 2014.
An "end" to homelessness doesn't mean that no one becomes homeless ever again. People will still face problems that lead to a housing crisis – medical emergencies, loss of employment, family problems, and more. A system that has ended homelessness is one where those people can get help immediately, rather than dealing with endless waitlists and problems getting the help they need. One of our national partners, Built for Zero, equates this to a well-functioning healthcare system. Such a system doesn't mean that no one ever gets sick but it does mean that when someone has health problems, the help they need is available to them when they need it, and certainly before the problem gets worse.