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Myths & Facts

There are many “myths” about homelessness and homeless individuals that need to be addressed. Here are some of the most prevalent.

MYTH: Programs aimed at ending homelessness are a waste of money.
TARRANT COUNTY REALITY: Taxpayers in Tarrant County spent 36% more on people while they were on the streets than when they were in supportive housing.***
THE DIRECTIONS HOME APPROACH: Our plan is bold: it calls for civic leadership, community action and personal responsibility. The status quo is expensive and simply not good enough for the greater Fort Worth community.

MYTH: People choose to be homeless or don’t want to live indoors.
TARRANT COUNTY REALITY: Given the choice of an affordable apartment with a traditional lease or life on the streets, people overwhelmingly choose housing and the responsibilities of being a good tenant. In fact, 96.9% of homeless people surveyed in Tarrant County want to end their homelessness.**
THE DIRECTIONS HOME APPROACH: Directions Home advocates for the creation of quality, affordable, accessible housing and programs that provide meaningful support. As a result, people with complex needs can stay safe, keep their housing and live productive lives.

MYTH: People who are homeless don’t work or don’t want to work.
TARRANT COUNTRY REALITY: Not everyone who is homeless is eligible or able to go to work quickly, including children and adults with disabilities. For those who are, the more difficult task is finding work that fits their skills and accommodates their lack of an address, car or cell phone. Restrictive employment practices also pose barriers to people who have served their time for criminal convictions.
THE DIRECTIONS HOME APPROACH: The Directions Home plan advocates for a continuum of employment programs that addresses the needs of employers and job seekers alike.

MYTH: The homeless are all drunk old men.
TARRANT COUNTY REALITY: Of the homeless in Tarrant County, 31% are children under age 18. Fewer than 10% of homeless individuals were reported as having chronic substance abuse. Another 41% are women.*
THE DIRECTIONS HOME APPROACH: Programs are tailored to meet the special needs of women and children. Support for people in recovery is also vital.

MYTH: Most of the homeless have a serious mental illness.
TARRANT COUNTY REALITY: While many people in Tarrant County who are homeless struggle with anxiety and depression, only 13% were reported to have a serious mental illness.*
THE DIRECTIONS HOME APPROACH: Permanent Supportive Housing – delivered with a Housing First approach – is the most effective and economical way to provide both housing and supportive services to people with complex barriers to self-sufficiency.

MYTH: The more services you provide, the more homeless people you will attract
TARRANT COUNTY REALITY: In all but a few American cities, as resources and programs increase (especially the availability of supportive housing), homelessness decreases.
THE DIRECTIONS HOME APPROACH: The Directions Home plan emphasizes the strategic investment of dollars in evidence-based practices like Housing First that efficiently and effectively end homelessness.

MYTH: The homeless population is overwhelmingly large and progress is not possible.
TARRANT COUNTY REALITY: On January 24, 2013, volunteers counted 2,390 homeless people in Tarrant County. That represents an 11% decrease since Directions Home was launched in 2008, despite a huge recession that took a toll on low-wage and low-skill workers.
THE DIRECTIONS HOME APPROACH: The vision of the Directions Home plan is to make homelessness rare, short-term and non-recurring. And it is working. Our focus is on serving the most vulnerable in society. Literally, the people we assess are most likely to die or be victimized in the near future.

MYTH: The private sector (or the public sector) can handle this alone.
TARRANT COUNTY REALITY: If compassion and charity (or laws and policies) were all that was necessary to end homelessness, Fort Worth would have finished this work a long time ago. Partnerships, personnel and financial resources from across the community are already making headway in our effort to end homelessness.
THE DIRECTIONS HOME APPROACH: Directions Home encourages collaboration and leverages money and people power from all sectors of our community – corporations, foundations, government and private citizens. With everyone pitching in, we can really make a difference.

* Point-in-time count data reported to HUD by the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, January 24, 2013
** Street Count and Survey, Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, 2007
*** Public Hospital Data: Haynes, J. & Petrovich, J. (2012). Evaluation of directions home supportive housing and the use of critical service systems: JPS Health Network Data. (Unpublished technical report). John Peter Smith Health Network and Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas. All other data: Petrovich, J. (2012). Evaluation of directions home supportive housing and the use of critical service systems: Mental health, emergency medical, and law enforcement sectors. (Unpublished technical report). Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas.

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