Avoid Stereotyping the Homeless

Avoid Stereotyping the Homeless

Unless you have experienced homelessness firsthand, it can be surprisingly easy to stereotype the homeless. Even if we aren’t aware of it, many of us have preconceived notions in our head. However, stereotyping leads us down a slippery slope that makes it much harder for us to truly understand someone’s story. This in turn makes it more difficult to supply the help necessary to relieve a specific situation. Read on for a few common stereotypes with the intention of breaking these down and allowing for a more human connection.

Who They Are

Thinking every homeless person has certain characteristics is a very common thing in the United States. Words like lazy, mentally ill, unstable, drunk, and addict make very broad assumption about over half a million people. This not only harms the homeless who aren’t any of these things, but it makes it more difficult for those experiencing these problems to get help. There also tends to be a “Get a job” thought process with many of us. What we fail to realize when making these comments is many people are currently working, looking for a job, or working towards their education. Not only is it offensive to throw characteristics on an individual, it is irresponsible. Just like with race, religion, and politics, it’s important to expand your understanding of others so a solution can more easily be reached.

How It Happened

It’s easy to assume that every single homeless person put themselves in this situation. First, we should be less concerned about how it happened, and focus more on helping. Secondly, it’s important to understand that many people were living just as comfortably as you currently do. Financial problems, domestic strife, mental illness, and all sorts of other circumstances can happen at any moment. When we assume something about someone, we put a tag on them that makes it easier to think we don’t need to help. After all, if we think it’s their own fault they are homeless, we probably think it’s up to them to get out of it, too.

How to Help

Breaking down your personal stereotypes and talking to others is a great start to helping the homeless. Once we have done that, we can start looking for solutions. Many programs, like Firehouse Ministries, can provide insight on the best way to help. For example, we are mainly known for our meal service and providing homeless men overnight shelter. However, volunteers can help with many programs including GED classes, providing legal counsel, and sponsoring someone looking to recover from addiction. Contact us for more information!