Along with this memorial comes the inevitable hype and hoopla created by homeless advocates, hoping to squeeze as much sympathy as they can out of the world for the homeless. Often, though, this leads to an exaggeration, or misrepresentation, of facts. As you may already know from reading this blog, misrepresentation of the truth is the biggest of my pet peeves. It doesn’t really matter the subject, but it grates on my nerves even more when people distort the truth about homelessness.
Some distort the truth about homelessness because they don’t like homeless people, some people distort the same truth, but in the opposite direction, because they feel empathy for the homeless and wish to protect them from the haters. Still, neither group is of much real help to the homeless. Only the truth about homelessness can help end it.
For many years the chaplains at the Nashville Rescue Mission quoted some fact they dug up about homelessness – that the average life expectancy of a homeless person was about 55 years old. They said this in an attempt to scare the homeless who lived at the mission to “gettin’ right with God”. It did seem like a terrible shame that people could die so young just for being homeless.
But, a year or two ago some fundamentalist Christian group announced a new study they had done in support of the family lifestyle, reporting that while married men lived into their 70s or later, single men died about the age of 55. So funny. With rare exception, all the men living at the rescue mission are single. Here, the truth had finally come out. Homeless men were not dying at 55 because they were homeless, they were dying just like everyone else in the country. So all the claims that the homeless lifestyle could be so detrimental as to kill a person pretty much flew out the window.
More proof that being homeless doesn’t kill a person, (although being homeless most certainly does suck ass), is a comparison of death rates. In Nashville they boast a homeless population around 3900, and this past year 39 homeless people died. In San Diego they boast a homeless population rate of 9000, and this past year 62 homeless people died there. So, we are looking at a death rate of slightly less than 1 percent for the homeless. Then I looked up the national death rate for all people in the US and found that it is slightly less than 1 percent a year. Yep, the homeless die at the same rate as the rest of the country.
Ok, so what does all this mean? That I couldn’t tell you. What I do know is, only facts can lead to solutions to homelessness. If we truly want to help the homeless, we must be completely honest, and admit to all the truths about homelessness.
UPDATE: True to the character of homeless advocates, as I claimed in this blog post, I have seen where the number of homeless deaths has been changed by the advocates. They are now reporting that a higher number of homeless people having died this year, than they reported just a couple days ago.