Many people are misinformed about the homeless – what caused their homelessness, what they’re doing – or not doing – to alleviate that situation and what the effect is on the rest of society. We offer the following facts as “myth busters.”
Myth 1: Many people believe the homeless are lazy, do-nothing sponges living off taxpayers’ hard earned dollars.
Fact: Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of homeless people who enter Freedom House have been hard-working individuals who fell on hard times due to unforeseen and unplanned for circumstances, such as losing a job, having a catastrophic illness with no health insurance, or being abandoned by the employed parent. Consider the following:
- 95% of Freedom House’s budget comes from donations from individuals, organizations or corporations. Only 5% is government funded.
Myth 2: Shelters like Freedom House only enable the deadbeats to keep “taking, taking, taking.”
Fact: At Freedom House, we hold our residents accountable and responsible.
- Every resident has daily chores they must complete; we offer structured living and rules that must be followed or you are asked to leave.
- All families set goals and are held accountable to achieve those goals each and every week. Each parent resident is required to make a minimum of 15 job contacts per week, 15 housing contacts per week and save 75% of their income in a savings account for a “nest egg” upon graduation.
- All adults are required to take budgeting/finance and parenting classes; teens take character building classes and kids are held accountable for learning at their level as well. Children are taught healthy decision making, relationship training and anger management techniques.
Myth 3: I work hard for my family – we’d never wind up homeless.
Fact: Truth be told, more than 70% of Americans are 1-2 paychecks away from being homeless. Most of the families we see thought they’d never wind up on the street either.
Myth 4: It’s only the minority populations that are homeless.
Fact: Actually, Freedom House serves a cross section of ethnic groups, mirroring the population at large. Fully 40% of residents are Caucasian, 30% are African American; 15% are Hispanic/Latino and 15% fall into “other” categories.
Myth 5: People who wind up in a homeless shelter have “screwed up” and need someone to take care of them until they can scrape enough money together to get them back on their feet.
Fact: Homelessness is not a result of simply running out of money. There are usually much deeper issues that grow out of poor learned habits, childhood abuse or neglect, or a lack of proper instruction on how a family and household should operate. These issues, when left unchecked, lead to generations of repeated mistakes, creating a cycle of poverty that is passed down from generation to generation.
Myth 6: Green Bay isn’t New York City or even Chicago – homelessness isn’t really an issue here.
Fact: It may not be as “visible” as in large urban areas, but homelessness is a serious problem in our area. Since we TRIPLED our capacity to serve homeless families with children in 2004, we’ve had a waiting list EVERY DAY, large enough to completely fill a second facility of the same size. Consider the following:
- Right now, there are 44 families waiting to be admitted to Freedom House; 22 in town and 22 from outlying areas desiring the same. We have the space to house 12 families at Freedom House at one time.
- More than 7,000 Wisconsin residents experienced homelessness in 2008. Nearly 3,000 were children. In Brown County the numbers are 1,000 homeless and nearly 700 children, respectively.
- More than 735 children were reported homeless in the Green Bay School district this year. That’s up by more than 100 from those reported homeless last year, which was higher than the previous year as well.
- Families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population and now represent fully 40% of homeless people in our area.