The Myths of Homelessness
Did you know:
- The fastest growing group of homeless people is children under 9 years of age.
- The majority of homeless families with children are headed by single mothers who are homeless due to below poverty earning levels or are fleeing domestic violence.
- 40-60% of homeless heads-of-household actually are employed.
- A person working a full time job earning minimum wage does not earn enough to rent a 2-bedroom apartment in the Metro-Atlanta area.
- 40% of jobs with growth between 1994 and 2005 paid less than $16,000 per year.
- Experiences of homelessness and poverty are often legacies that repeat generation to generation.
There are always two sides to every story. What often seems to be logical and obvious, may not necessarily pan out to be the reality. Hence misunderstanding, misperceptions and unfair judgment sets in. Over time, we begin to accept myths to be facts. Simple answers prove to rarely address core problems, just the symptoms.
Rainbow Village takes every opportunity we can to share facts in response to the common myths we hear about homelessness. We hope you will share these messages with friends and family to help us all better understand the facts and learn how together we can help families break the cycles of homelessness, poverty and domestic violence and transform their lives.
Myth #1: Homelessness Is an Inner City Issue, Not One for the Suburbs. There Are No Homeless People in North Metro Atlanta suburban areas
Just because we don’t seem them laying in the streets and begging on every corner, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The tragedy of homelessness lies as much in what we don’t see as much as what we do.
In 2009 there were 24,225 evictions and 24,000 foreclosures in Gwinnett County. At the average family size of 2.5 that equals approximately 120,562 family members that lost housing in 2009.
There are no shelters for homeless families in Gwinnett. These families were forced to seek shelter from family and friends, find temporary housing in extended stay hotels, live in their cars, or worse – live on the streets.
It is estimated that 60% of the homeless family population in Gwinnett County are children and 50% of the children are under the age of six. The National Center on Family Homelessness reports that 1-in-50 children in America are homeless each year. According to this statistic, Gwinnett County has an estimated 6,000 homeless children each year. During the 2009-2010 school year, the Gwinnett School System accommodated over 1,500 homeless students.
There ARE many homeless in our community right now that need our help!
Since 1991, Rainbow Village has worked to break the cycles of homelessness, poverty and domestic violence in the Duluth, Gwinnett, and north Metro-Atlanta areas and can attest to the fact that the needs are growing. In 2012, we received 1,650 calls for help, 68% being from Gwinnett.
Myth #2: The Majority of Homeless People Are Adults That Have Made Bad Choices in Life and Are Suffering the Consequences.
- In one year, 1.35 million children will experience homelessness in this country and that number is rising.
- Georgia currently has over 500,000 children living in poverty stricken families, with over 60,000 Georgia children experiencing homelessness each year.
- Families comprise roughly 34% of the total homeless population with the majority being headed by single mothers.
The National Center’s Report Card on Homelessness states that “…Within a single year, nearly all (97%) homeless children have moved, at least 25% have witnessed violence, and 22% have been separated from their families. About half of all school-age children experiencing homelessness have problems with anxiety and depression. Education is often disrupted and challenges in school are common.”
Homelessness is not just impacting adults! Rainbow Village is the only program offering a comprehensive approach to address the full complement of physical, emotional, financial and education needs of whole families who have suffered the trauma of homelessness.
Yes, the habits, choices and life circumstances of adults can result in homelessness, but more often than not, there are cycles and forces working against them that are beyond their control. Rainbow Village families are willing to work hard, do what it takes and make the necessary changes to create a new way of life, a new start for their families. The Rainbow Village model teaches critical life skills and forms new habits not only for adults but for the children too so that the cycles of homeless don’t pass down to younger generations.
Myth #3: Homeless People Just Need to Get a Job and Take Responsibility for Their Lives.
40-60% of homeless people DO have jobs and more than you’d think have education beyond high school.
In a national survey, 87% of homeless families cited lack of affordable housing – not lack of employment – as the primary cause of their homelessness.
A solid household budget formula recommends that we pay no more than 30% of our income for housing. The average two-bedroom apartment in Atlanta costs $834 a month, which would require one to have a job that pays almost $35,000 a year to support that rent. Georgia’s minimum wage pays less than half of that figure.
Rainbow Village enters into a covenant with homeless families with children to provide transitional homes in which they are able to remain together. In return, heads of those families agree to:
- obtain and maintain employment and reliable transportation
- attend mandatory weekly life skills classes
- work with assigned case manager to develop individual goals and objectives with respect to financial, family and home management, including a contribution of 30% of income toward rent and savings
- ensure their school-aged children attend school and the Rainbow Village after-school programs
- work toward educational milestones needed for career advancement, job security and increased earning potential.
Rainbow Village residents take full responsibility of their circumstances and chart a new course that puts them on the road to self-sufficiency and success.
Myth #4: Homelessness, Poverty and Domestic Violence Are All Separate Issues.
Domestic Violence is the second most frequently stated cause of homelessness for families. One-half of homeless women and children have fled domestic violence.
92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe abuse and left their homes to save themselves and their children from abusers.
School-age children of homeless families shift from school-to-school as the family migrates which greatly impacts their ability to learn and gain an education that will be a solid foundation for their adult lives.
The current high school graduation rate for homeless children in the state of Georgia is less than 25%.
By the age of 12, 83% of homeless children have been witness to at least one violent event.
All humans need the same things: a safe place to sleep, enough food to eat and the nourishment of human support and affection in systems of permanence that do not threaten abandonment at every turn. In other words, everyone needs a sense of home and family.
The blight of homelessness breaks up families. Poverty and domestic violence often complicate an already complex issue, destroying hope for a better future. To make matters worse, as a consequence of that hopelessness, intrinsic motivation to exert the effort required to rebuild lives is lost as well. The process of homelessness happens when assurance that physical needs of shelter, clothing, and food will be met is lost and emotional and social support systems fail as well and confidence in our abilities to stand on our own disappears.
Rainbow Village recognizes that all of these issues go hand-in-hand and create cycles of brokenness, hopelessness and destruction that affects not only lives now but lives in these families for generations to come. Rainbow Village’s holistic model breaks these cycle and offers promise for a new life.
Myth #5: The Government Will Handle This. I Can’t Do Anything to Impact the Issue of Homelessness – It’s Just Too Big.
Our governments can and do play a part in the battle – Rainbow Village and other nonprofits serving homeless populations receive some financial support from federal, state and county grants;however, breaking the cycles of homelessness, poverty and domestic violence requires much more.
Rainbow Village residents need us to believe in them, encourage them, educate them and share with them our time, talents and treasure to help them get back on their feet. We are their hope. We are their promise for a new tomorrow.
Stability, safety, life-skills training, academic tutoring for kids who’ve fallen behind, emotional support and dedicated and caring people- in a word, community – is what’s needed to help our residents find sure footing again and rebuild their lives. Rainbow Village, through our board, our staff and our hundreds of cherished volunteers and donors have made it so for almost 23 years.
Rainbow Village has successfully helped over 800 individuals complete their transitional housing program and go on to stand on their own again, strong with great promise for better tomorrows.