Myth Busting

Posted: October 11, 2007 in Discrimination, Employment, Homelessness, Misconceptions

I used to watch a television program called MythBusters.

Each week, the program hosts would take an urban myth in an attempt to prove or disprove the veracity of the myth. Using current scientific knowledge, quite a bit of melodrama and antics, by the end of the segment, the hosts would make a conclusion as to whether the myth was true, plausible or just plain old bunk.  

Because I write about homelessness, I like it when I get the opportunity to debunk some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding the homeless – most of which are based on lack of true awareness and understanding surrounding the whys and hows homelessness comes about in the first place. I believe that if a person is willing to see past their own prejudices and misconceptions regarding homelessness they might just be more apt to lend a helping hand.

Two of the biggest misconceptions regarding homelessness is that the homeless are lazy; or that they are drug users or alcoholics.

For some odd ball reason, many people also consider homeless persons to be less intelligent than non-homeless persons.

Truth be told, there are quite a number of homeless who are quite a bit smarter than many of the non-homeless people I’ve met. Some actually hold collage degrees from major universities.

Case in point…

Yesterday I received an e-mail. The sender thought I would be interested in an article that appeared in The Columbus Dispatch. The article was titled: Educated Homeless Man Wants Job.

The story was about a homeless gentleman in Cleveland, Ohio named Henry Navin, aged 61.

Mr. Navin, who has been homeless for about a year and half, earned a law degree from CSU and an undergraduate business degree and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.

The article went on to outline the challenges Mr. Navin faces each day as he struggles to find employment – all in an attempt to make a better life for himself. It also tells about how many in his community view him.

At one point in the article, Mr. Navin is quoted as saying:

"You see someone poor and you look away…"

That seems to encapsulate the attitude of most people, not only in Mr. Navin’s community, but all throughout the entire country – people see a homeless person and look away pretending that the homeless person isn’t there.

Therein lies the problem.

We’re afraid to admit that there are those who need our help. We’ve become so ingrained and blinded with our own prejudices and misconceptions about the homeless, that even when we are presented with the truth and an opportunity to do what we know we should be doing, we don’t do anything that will make a difference.

I’ve never been one to pretend that every last homeless person can be rescued from homelessness. There are those who have chosen homelessness as their preferred lifestyle. There are those homeless who are indeed lazy and unwilling to do anything to help themselves. And yes, there are those homeless who prefer to lay around getting high or drunk rather than find a way to raise their standard of living.

There are, however, those homeless who want nothing more desperately than to find a way to be "normal" once again; to feel clean and wholesome; to be welcomed back into the very society that has ostracized them.

If nothing more, we owe it to them – and to ourselves – to do what we can to help those who want it.

Isn’t that what this country is all about? Isn’t that the ideals and principles that this nation was founded on – giving each person the equal opportunity to have a better life?

Yet, how many are denied that opportunity simply because they’re homeless?

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