Mission Services of London would be the first to tell you that the face of homelessness is changing. Yet, the image of the dishevelled man in line at the soup kitchen or the adventurous vagabond riding the rails has remained the stereotype. Unfortunately, this stereotype is becoming increasingly hard to cast aside.
The Salvation Army recently conducted a national survey in an effort to better understand the Canadian perception of homelessness. The findings from the report confirmed our belief that stereotypes are still alive and well among our nation:
Approximately 40% of those surveyed believe that most homeless people want to live on the street and in shelters.
Almost 30% of those surveyed believe that a good work ethic is all you need to escape homelessness.
1/5 of those surveyed believe that individuals experiencing homelessness are always to blame for the situation they’re in.
More than 60% of those surveyed believe that money given to a homeless person is likely to go to drugs or alcohol.
More than 1/3 of those surveyed are scared of homeless people.
40% of those surveyed believe that most homeless people are mentally ill.
Mission Services of London is committed to changing this perception through education, engagement and ongoing support. Kristy Squire, a Resident Care Worker at Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter has a front line understanding of the face of homelessness today. “Those stats are really disturbing to me,” she says. “The people who come through the door could be your neighbour, the person you see at the grocery store with none of these stereotypically identifying features.” Kristy has spent seven years at Rotholme, helping those in need. In that time, she’s seen many different faces of homelessness including an increasingly large number from the immigrant community. “We are seeing more and more refugee families coming to Rotholme directly from the border,” Kristy explains. “But immigration is such a complicated process. We provide case workers who are immigration savvy to give them a head start.” The dedicated team at Rotholme help with apartment rental applications and set up appointments with other social services agencies. Most importantly, they provide warmth and compassion to families who are often times coming from exceptional cruelty and trauma.
Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter becomes the first stop on a long and arduous journey. “The families we see are always helpful and appreciative,” says Kristy. “After they’ve moved on, they’ll come back and visit asking how they can be of help to other new families. It’s very heartwarming” she says.
Recently, the Toronto Star ran an article featuring this changing face of homelessness. Entitled ‘The Hidden Homeless’, the article explored the situation faced by many immigrants forced to live in overcrowded and substandard housing. This is just one face of a multifaceted problem. Now is the time to erase these stereotypes and reach out to those in need.
Whether they’re helping a family new to Canada or a single dad with a baby, Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter will do what they can to get them on their feet. “We live in an economy right now that doesn’t promote financial stability among families” Kristy explains. Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter is committed to providing crisis support and to assist families in re-entering the community.
For information on Rotholme Women’s & Family Shelter click HERE
To read the article: ‘The Hidden Homeless’ click HERE
For more information on the survey conducted by The Salvation Army click HERE