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Busting the big myths on homelessness

Friday, 10 August 2018

Source: RMIT

At the start of Homelessness Week (6-12 August), RMIT University’s Professor Guy Johnson busts some of the biggest myths and misconceptions around homelessness.

Australia’s first Professor of Urban Housing and Homelessness, Johnson is speaking at a panel at the National Homelessness Conference (6-7 August) and is available for interview.

Myth 1: Most people experiencing homelessness sleep on the streets

Rough sleepers are the most visible face of homelessness but they represent only a small fraction (about 1 in 12) of the homeless population and their characteristics are quite different.

Most people experiencing homelessness, particularly women with children, go out of their way not to be noticed.

Myth 2: Most people experiencing homelessness are drug addicts or alcoholics

About 60 per cent do not have a drug or alcohol problem. Of those that have a drug problem the majority develop it after they become homeless.

Myth 3: Most homeless people have mental health problems

About one-third of the homeless have serious mental health issues. Up to half of these people developed their mental health problems after they became homeless.
Myth 4: Most homeless break the law

Homeless people are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators of crime.

Myth 5: Giving to people who are begging only encourages homelessness

There is no evidence to support the claim that giving to beggars encourages homelessness.
Myth 6: Most of those who are homeless choose to be

The majority are poor and have experienced a health problem or a financial shock; or cannot stay at home because of violence or abuse and cannot afford alternative accommodation.

People experiencing homelessness want a home in the community, the same as everyone else.

Myth 7: There’s enough emergency accommodation

Australia does have some emergency accommodation available but agencies are being overwhelmed by demand as numbers continue to grow.

RMIT and Victoria’s leading social housing organisation Unison Housing have a unique partnership that combines academic research and industry knowledge to improve the lives of 650,000 Australians facing housing issues.

For interviews: Grace Taylor, +61 3 9925 2179, +61 499 515 097 or grace.taylor@rmit.edu.au