Monday, June 8, 2009

Myths, Facts & Tips ... from Soloist website

Following are Myths & Facts and Tips re the homeless as given at the website for the recent film The Soloist. Hmmm. Sound mostly pretty good; thought I'd share 'em.

Myths & Facts: The truth about homelessness and mental illness

Debunk The Myth: Help eliminate stereotypes and myths about people experiencing homelessness and mental illness.

Myth: Most homeless people are panhandlers or old men on park benches.
Fact: On any given night, 37% of homeless people are families with children; 63% are individuals.

Myth: Homeless people are lazy - they just do not want to work.
Fact: Many adults in shelters have jobs yet still can't afford housing. A survey of 23 U.S. cities found that 17.4% of homeless adults who had children were employed. 13% of single adults or unaccompanied youth were employed.

Myth: Homeless people commit more violent crimes than housed people.
Fact: Homeless people actually commit less violent crimes than housed people. They are, however, more likely to be the victims of violent crime.

Myth: All homeless people are mentally ill or substance abusers.
Fact: Around a quarter of homeless people are mentally ill and about 40% are alcohol or substance abusers, with around 15% suffering both disabilities.

Myth: Setting up services for homeless people will cause homeless people from all around the migrate to a city.
Fact: Studies have shown that homeless people do not migrate for services. To the extent they do move to new areas, it is because they are searching for work or have family in the area.

Myth: Homelessness has declined dramatically in recent years.
Fact: The criteria through which the government defines homelessness can change as often as these surveys are taken. Sometimes people living in cars, or staying with their relatives are considered homeless; sometimes they are not. Therefore it is not always an equal comparison to the previous count.

Myth: Mental illnesses are brought on by a weakness of character.
Fact: Mental illnesses are a result of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors. Research has shown genetic and biological factors are associated with schizophrenia, depression, and alcoholism. Social influences, such as loss of a loved one or a job, can also contribute to the development of various disorders.

Myth: Children do not experience mental illnesses.
Fact: A report from the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health showed that in any given year 5-9 percent of children experience serious emotional disturbances, which can result in mental illness.

Myth: Homeless people will probably always be homeless.
Fact: The length of homelessness varies from person to person. Many spend years on the streets and then are able to get permanent housing.

Myth: Psychiatric disorders are not true medical illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. People who have a mental illness are just "crazy."
Fact: The fact is that brain disorders, like heart disease or diabetes, are legitimate medical illnesses. Research shows there are genetic and biological causes for psychiatric disorders, and they can be treated effectively.

Tips: Small ideas to make a big difference

Start Making a Difference. Every individual can take action to help solve homelessness. Here are five small things you can start doing now.

Make eye contact: Say hello – greet homeless individuals the same as you would a friend or colleague.
Give small supplies: Instead of money, give Ziploc bags of toiletries, socks, food or grocery coupons. Keep a supply in your car.
Donate clothes: Give your gently worn clothes to a local homeless facility.
Watch your mouth: Don’t call people experiencing homelessness “bums,” “transients,” or even “the homeless.” They are still people first.
Volunteer: Work directly with people experiencing homelessness.
Bust the stigma and share stories: Feeling support and being part of a community is empowering to those struggling with a mental illness. By listening to others or by sharing personal experiences, you help to break the silence that keeps people from being open about their illness.

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