'Anybody can be homeless.'
There are a few negative stereotypes that are often, and erroneously, associated with people who are homeless.
These stereotypes aren't always accurate — and sometimes are even rarely so — and, unsurprisingly, do further harm to the very people most in need of a hand up.
So why do we keep telling ourselves these blanket overgeneralizations can be trusted?
BuzzFeed Video hit the streets to chat with real homeless people and get to the bottom of all these terrible stigmas. And, as it turns out, you can learn a lot by actually talking with people instead of trusting what's been said about them.
Here are five myths about homeless people, debunked by real homeless people.
Myth #1: Homeless people are lazy. Plain and simple.
If you think homelessness is innately connected with laziness, you shouldn't. There are plenty of hardworking folks who can't find permanent shelter, possibly due to a lack of affordable housing in their area or maybe because they're working a job that pays a stubbornly low and stagnant wage.
In fact, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimated back in 2009 that roughly 44% of homeless people (nearly half!) do have jobs.
Myth #2: Homeless people have all made terrible decisions that led them to be homeless.
Speaking of 44%, it's also the portion of Americans who, in 2013, didn't have enough financial security to survive past three months if they lost their job, according to the Corporation for Economic Development.
That's about 132 million people in the U.S. living a few paychecks away from having (essentially) nothing. Almost half of America would be in dire circumstances if they got, say, laid off or injured in a natural disaster. So when you hear "anybody can be homeless," it's really not that far-fetched.
Myth #3: Every homeless person has a drug problem.
Yes, homeless people are more likely than non-homeless people to abuse alcohol and drugs. But, as is the case with any stereotype, you shouldn't immediately jump to any conclusions. According to estimates taken in 2003 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only about 38% of homeless people were dependent on alcohol, and about a quarter of homeless people abused other drugs.
So when you assume that that person on the sidewalk just wants your cash for booze, well you're making an a-s-s out of you and ... you get the drift.
Myth #4: All homeless people are criminals. (Watch out!)
Don't believe the hype. Crime and homelessness don't go hand in hand. There's no shortage of research that's found homeless people are actually less likely than housed people to commit violent crimes.
And due to nationwide increases in local ordinances that target homeless people — like bans on sleeping in public or panhandling in certain spots — many times, the crimes homeless people commit are due to their circumstances, not because they're naturally more dangerous.
Myth #5: Homeless people just want your money. That's it.
Just like many of us appreciate a friendly hello from a stranger, so do homeless people (and maybe even more so). Even if you can't spare some change, a smile and a nod might make someone's day.
The folks in BuzzFeed's video said, "I'm homeless, but I'm still a human being." Let's all keep that in mind during our next stroll down the street.