May 28, 2001
'What does a homeless person look like?'
When you think of a typical homeless person, what do they look like? If you thought of the typical homeless person as a white male in his late 30s with ragged clothes begging for money, you're a victim of homeless stereotypes. In America the homeless often get stereotyped as being a dirt poor white male bum living on the streets when really homelessness is very diverse. On a survey I conducted I asked the question, "What do you think a typical homeless person looks like?" and as I predicted the majority said a white male that lives on the streets.
Now there are many reasons why this is the stereotype. If you drive down to a major city such as Seattle and scan the streets for homeless people you'll probably see mostly males begging for money in ragged clothes but what you don't see is the well dressed homeless people because they blend in with the crowd.
Another stereotype is that the homeless are thought to be deranged criminals and in fact a lot of people fear them. Homeless people are usually the victim of a crime instead of the criminal themselves. If you think about it, it makes sense, homeless that don't have a place to sleep aren't in the security of a home that would make it easier to take something of theirs.
Next time you see a person in ragged clothes on the street don't think that they're a homeless criminal or that all homeless people look like that, just think that he or she is a good person with hard times.