There are lots of misconceptions about how and why people find themselves in difficult situations such as being homeless, battling addiction, without work or unable to put food on the table. Below we’ve pulled together some of the most common myths about these issues and answered them with the facts.


All homeless people are criminals, addicts and winos.

It is true that some homeless people battle with addiction or have committed crimes in the past, but in no way is it the case that all homeless people are criminals, addicts or ‘winos’. Research conducted by Crisis, Sheffield Hallam University, and Niven and Stewart, and collated by the UK Criminal Justice system found that around 20% of homeless people had committed an imprisonable crime in order to spend a night in the cells and that 30% of people who are released from prison have no home to go to.

Ill-health is a major issue amongst the homeless population due to the nature of the lifestyle - people who are exposed to the elements and living under the continual stress of being without a home. Research conducted by Homeless Link in 2014 found that 39% of homeless people interviewed for their report said they were taking drugs or recovering from a drug problem, a further 27% of respondents had, or were recovering from alcohol issues.

Homelessness is a result of poor choices or a chosen lifestyle.

Many homeless people started out with jobs, stable relationships and secure homes. Often a number of issues collide to create a rapid change to their living situation. In our experience, losing a job, the breakdown of a key relationship, or losing a tenancy are contributing factors to someone becoming homeless. The risk of homelessness is heightened when more than one of these difficulties arises at the same time.
It is rare for someone to choose homelessness as a lifestyle and often the choices made by individuals are made under the tremendous stress of dealing with the above mentioned issues and with the purpose of trying to remain in their own home.

All homeless people are mentally ill and violent.

Adverse to common perception, rather than being the perpetrators of violent crime, homeless people are often the victims of violence. In fact, people sleeping rough are almost 17 times more likely to have been victims of violence and one third of rough sleepers have been deliberately hit or kicked. Furthermore, homeless people are nine times more likely to take their own lives than the general population.
Mental illness along with physical illness is a common issue for homeless people, however it is can be homelessness that causes or exacerbates poor mental health. Homeless Link’s recent report found that 80% of homeless respondents reported some sort of mental health issue and 45% of these had been diagnosed with a mental health problem.

Homeless people only live on the streets and sleep in doorways.

Rough sleeping is just the most visible form of homelessness. People who are homeless also find shelter in squats, cars, by sofa-surfing with friends and family or sleeping in tents in remote and rural areas to avoid the dangers associated with rough sleeping.

Homeless people are too lazy to work.

Many homeless people manage to hold down jobs and hide their homeless status from their employers and colleagues because of a sense of shame and the stigmas associated with homelessness. Others who are unemployed find it difficult to find jobs because of their living status and having no address at which they can be contacted.


Is addiction a disease?

In early 2013, NICE made guidelines available to health care providers for the effective treatment and support for people suffering from addiction, officially recognising it as a chronic yet treatable illness. Addiction has similar relapse rates to diabetes, asthma or hypertension. However, due to the stigma surrounding addiction compassion for addicts is frequently lacking.

Addicts simply have poor self-control and could stop using/drinking if they really wanted to.

Realistically, addicts have very little option to ‘just stop using’. The very nature of the illness causes an addict's brain to become ‘re-wired’, usually during adolescence, so that their compulsion to use becomes stronger than the natural human urge to act in our own best interests.

All addicts are homeless junkies

Although many homeless people have problems with addiction, not all addicts are homeless. In fact, this far from the truth, many addicts manage to hold down their jobs for years without anyone noticing their addiction. Addicts are very adept at hiding their addiction from those around them and those closest to them are sometimes the last to find out they have a problem.

People become addicted only to one substance.

Many people misunderstand the nature of addiction, including addicts themselves. Addiction is not just a problem with the substance itself, the problem lies within the brain and the person.

Addiction is a multifaceted illness which includes the physical disruption of the brain's reward system and other neurochemical processes, along with cognitive effects which mean that the affected person has difficulty recalling the humiliation and suffering of damaging episodes of substance use - this is the addict's denial schema. Addicts also suffer from ‘spiritual unrest’ – not in a religious sense, but in the sense that an individual experiences a lack of connection with others – not being able to see a purpose in life and unable to ‘live life on life’s terms’. In many ways, addiction is the manifestation of underlying issues and emotions that a person has not dealt with and rather covered or hidden with the addiction, therefore treatment of the ‘whole person’ is required for people to achieve self-reliance and avoid becoming addicted to the same or other substances.


If people are unemployed it is their own fault.

People become unemployed for a number of reasons, not always ones that are under their own control like performance in their roles. Businesses under financial pressure often have to reduce their workforce to save costs and in these cases, long-term employed people may find themselves without a job through no fault of their own, other examples are a company’s choice to out-source work to other countries or move operations outside of an employee’s acceptable commute range.

People who are unemployed do not want to work.

Often people do want to work but face a number of different barriers to finding appropriate employment. For young people this can be a lack of skills or experience and for older generations unemployment can be due to the need for updating skills or over-experience for roles they are applying for, other factors such as higher rates of unemployment affecting geographical areas such as the North and North Devon in the south west, can affect a person’s success in their search for a job.

Unemployed people can and should just get a job.

There are many skills associated with successfully finding meaningful employment. Often applications are only able to be submitted online and some applicants do not have access to the internet or know how to complete online forms in order to apply for the jobs they are skilled at or wish to do.

Interview skills and CV presentation also play a part in the successful search for work. On top of all of this, the employment statistics given by the Office for National Statistics are misleading and it is estimated that unemployment is actually running at around four times the official number.