Lazy Drug Addicts?
People experiencing homelessness are too often mislabeled as being lazy or unwilling to work. In reality, the idea that these individuals spend their days sitting around with no desire to work could not be farther from the truth. The life of someone experiencing homelessness is fraught with stress and is a constant fight for survival. These people will walk miles with their belongings on their backs in order to find food and a place to sleep. They spend hours searching through garbage cans for cans and bottles to recycle and make some extra money. A life lived on the streets is one filled with constant danger as well as both emotional and physical exhaustion. Furthermore, many of these people do work, but their jobs simply do not pay enough to ensure a roof over their head and those who are unemployed may be searching for job opportunities.
Another prevalent belief about homelessness is that the majority of these people are drug addicts or alcoholics. According to a study conducted by the National Coalition for the Homeless, 26% of individuals experiencing homeless reported issues with drug abuse and 38% reported alcohol abuse (1). While these rates are certainly high, they are by no means a majority, and, further, may be a result of homelessness, not the cause of it. Some may turn to drug abuse to cope with the extreme stress caused by the loss of their homes and the difficulties of life on the streets. Additionally, the fact that someone deals with substance abuse is not an appropriate reason to turn a blind eye to their needs and hardships. Many people experiencing homelessness do not have health insurance or adequate support systems, which makes it exceedingly difficult to overcome addiction. Moreover, the vast majority of people with substance abuse issues live with a roof over their heads. Thus, labeling substance abuse as the cause of homelessness is not only a gross oversimplification of a highly complicated problem but is also a dangerous fallacy which stigmatizes those experiencing homelessness.
About the Author:
Rachel Priebe is a member of the Trojan Shelter Media Committee and her primary responsibilities lie in video creation. She is a sophomore at USC majoring in Film and Television Production. Outside of Trojan Shelter, she interns for the MY HERO Project, which uses art to honor heroes and promote positive change. She also works on campus as a video technician and an English tutor. In her free time, she enjoys public speaking and creating documentary films.