Why People Fear And Hate The Homeless

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Why don’t people have sympathy?

With many Americans but a few paychecks away from homelessness it seems that most Americans would have a certain enhanced sympathy toward homeless people. However, it seems quite the opposite.

Even as people see those around them, people they were once friends with, lose their homes, the fears and hatred remain and get directed at former friends and relatives. Some people fear and hate those without homes so much that even if they know them. Some even apply those hatreds and fears to their own elderly parents, the very people who once cared for them, when they fall on hard times. They’d sooner believe that someone they knew and loved has become a bad or lazy person than that poverty can happen to good people!

Homeless people are despised or disdained, labeled as lazy and worthless. I don’t think this is because Americans are insensitive or unable to feel empathy. I have a few theories as to why they are so despised.

photo by Marius Muresan
photo by Marius Muresan

The Idea That They Get Government Checks

From comments I have heard and read around the internet, many people believe that every homeless person is getting a big, fat government check each month. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many don’t get anything from the government. Most of those who do receive aid only receive food assistance which is, at most $200 worth per month for an individual and they can only spend it on food. Most shelters are funded by donations, not taxes.

The amount of tax dollars that do go to programs directed at homelessness is about $4 billion dollars, mostly directed towards preventing families with children on the verge of homelessness from becoming homeless and not towards programs to help already homeless people. Already homeless people seldom get aid beyond food assistance.

Some elderly people living on the street don’t even collect the Social Security income they’ve paid into all their lives. Many disabled people lose their homes and because the application process for Disability is lengthy and often requires the ability to be contacted by phone and mail and the ability to go to appointments, sometimes a hundred or more miles away they often never collect the Disability they paid into all their working lives. If one is disabled, it generally takes several years to begin collecting that benefit. Most Americans don’t have enough money saved up to live on without working for two to five years so many with disabilities become homeless.

The majority of mentally ill homeless people are not getting any tax money, either. Most of the folks too mentally ill to hold down a job are too mentally ill to navigate the aid applications.

That guy you see picking through the garbage isn’t getting thousands of your hard earned tax dollars, he’s really living off that garbage.

photo by Vlad Iorga
photo by Vlad Iorga

People Fear Becoming Homeless Themselves

The Average American is only one illness or several paychecks from it

If people are beset by woes brought on by the economy and they actually believe that lack of jobs and affordable housing cause homelessness then they’ll have to fear it. If people believe that illness, age, or disability cause people to lose their homes then they’ll have to fear becoming losing theirs. By sticking to the belief that only people who are bad can find themselves living on the street, they can insulate themselves from any fear of it.

In fifteen years of working with homeless people I learned that the majority of newly un-housed folks are shocked speechless that it happened to them. Most of them hang onto their own fear and hatred of homeless people for quite a while, even though they are far more likely to come to harm at the hands of a criminal with a home than at the hands of a homeless person.

To feel safe from it themselves, many people with homes feel they must create a quality that defines homeless people. They invent a quality they don’t feel they possess so they can feel that as long as they don’t possess that quality they can hold it up as a magic shield against their fear of losing their home.

photo by Leroy Skalstad
photo by Leroy Skalstad

Beggars, Panhandlers, and Bums

For many people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of people living on the street is panhandlers. The only faces of homelessness most average citizens see are those of the ragged folks who beg for change on downtown streets.

Only a very small percentage of homeless people beg. For instance, on any given day in downtown Chicago you can find about fifteen to thirty people begging for change on the sidewalks. However, Chicago has somewhere between 6,000 and 12,000 homeless residents, the vast majority of whom never beg. The beggars and panhandlers people have come to see as the face of homelessness make up probably less than one percent of all homeless people.

The people who beg are often those with mental illnesses or addiction issues, people who may not even be aware that other choices exist. I think many people are deeply disturbed by panhandlers because it’s hard to pretend they don’t exist.

And not only do very few homeless people beg, some panhandlers actually have homes!

Even Mom Must Be Bad Now

Not too long ago, I helped an elderly woman re-connect with her family via the Internet. They had so many irrational fears about their own mother that they trusted me, a total stranger, more than the woman who gave them birth.

Now that wouldn’t be too surprising if she had been an addict or had abused them when they were children but she hadn’t. She had actually put her two children through college and just finished paying it off a few years ago. They admitted she had been a very good mom and had always treated them well. The reasoning for not taking her in that her daughter gave me was that she didn’t want her to be a bad influence on her children, the woman’s grandchildren.

We had a bit of a back and forth email interaction, the daughter and I, and I tried to pin down what the fear was. The daughter had made all sorts of assumptions about her mom. Mom hadn’t turned into a knife-wielding madwoman addicted to crack, she just couldn’t afford her apartment anymore after her hours were cut back and she couldn’t find another job. Thankfully, this story had a happy ending and the daughter decided to let her mother come stay with her in her nice home in the suburbs.



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Fundraising Ideas – 25 Different Options


1. Cookie Dough Fundraiser: Just about everyone loves freshly baked cookies. That’s what makes cookie dough fundraisers such a good idea. There’s no cost to start one.

2. Read-a-thon: If you’re raising money for a school and can get the money you need monetizing a reading project it only seems natural that you would consider a read-a-thon as your primary fundraising idea.

3. Sell Candy Bars: Candy bars are easy to sell. Our top suggestion sells for a dollar each. You can sell them at the office, events or even to friends and neighbors. You can buy as little as one case at a time. Shipping is free. Everyone knows people who are willing to buy a few candy bars from them.

4. Yummy Licks Lollipops: Lollipops are possibly even more popular than candy bars when it comes to fundraising. They sell for half the price of a candy bar. You double your money on every lollipop you sell. You can buy one case at a time. There’s lots of shapes and sizes available but these have been the top confection lollipop for years.

5. Online Donation Campaign: If you are an individual wanting to raise money for a specific cause you should consider one of the online donation websites. They allow you to build a webpage and then use their tools to reach out to people you know using email and social media and gather donations for your cause.

6. Sell Flower Bulbs: One of the new concepts in fundraising has been groups looking for greener fundraising ideas. Well there’s nothing greener than selling flower bulbs. You can sell bulbs in the spring and there’s another program for bulbs that plant in the fall. You make 50% profit. There’s a wide selection of products with various price points. There’s no cost to start this fundraiser since everything you need is provided.

7. Talent Show: Talent shows are great ways to attract people to an event. You can either charge admission to raise money or your can sell concessions to raise money.

8. Silent Auctions: Silent auctions work well if you can get items people would bid for. It’s best if individuals or businesses donate items such as time shares, sports tickets or other valuables. The other essential part of silent auctions is they need to be tied to an event that will be well attended.

9. Partner with Local Restaurants: Lots of local restaurants have come to appreciate fundraising groups because the group can bring lots of traffic to the restaurant. The local business benefits from the traffic and they will pay your group a small percentage of the money spent the night of your fundraiser.

10. Raffle: Raffles have been around for a long time and are a great way to raise money. In order to be successful the item or items being raffled have to have a high implied value and be something people would be willing to spend a few dollars to gain a chance to win the prize.

11. School Carnival: When our kids were young their school’s carnival was huge. It raised tens of thousands of dollars between the concessions, ticket sales and games of chance. The problem was the time to plan and need for a large number of volunteers. But if those are not obstacles then carnivals can be great revenue generators.

12. Holiday Shop: We see these at lots of schools. A company comes to your school or group and sets up a gift shop. Your kids can shop for gifts and other little items. The problem is that the school doesn’t make a lot of money so although we offer this as a suggestion we are not convinced this is one of the better fundraising ideas.

13. Book Fair: As of right now Scholastic dominates this arena. That company is a large publisher and they come to your school and set up a book store. The students come and spend money on books and other items. Typically the book fair is put together by the librarian or media specialist and they earn a percentage of the sales. Personally we believe schools would be better off holding a read-a-thon because the focus is not on the students spending money but instead is the focus is on reading and you are given the tools to monetize that reading effort.

14. Walk-a-thon: Walk-a-thons are another great way to raise money. Members of your group get pledges from friends and family for each unit they walk.

15. Coffee Fundraiser: If you want to know how popular coffee is then just drive by a Starbucks in the morning and check out the long lines. Since there’s such a large market for coffee why not consider selling bags of freshly roasted cossee.

16. Fundraising Candles: If you’re searching for other products just about everyone buys then you should definitely consider selling candles. You’ll find lots of different candle lines to fit different needs

17. Smencils: Smencils are one of the unique products that actually sell well. They are pencils made from recycled newspapers. They are also scented and come in little tubes. It’s the kind of item kids love to own so it’s great for elementary school aged kids and younger.

18. Home Delivery Cookie Dough: Have you thought about selling cookie dough but hated the idea of having to deliver the frozen tubs to your customers? Well this fundraiser allows you to sell e coupons that your customers use to purchase tubs of dough that are then sent directly to their home or office. No more deliveries!!

19. Money Savings Cards: Money Savings Cards are interesting. You sell them to people and it gives them membership to an online shopping site. When they shop there they earn cash back from the stores. They also find some coupons and deals. Since most people shop online these cards are pretty cool.

20. Journey of Faith Candles: We’ve suggested candles for fundraising already but these candles are worth special mention since they have been one of the top fundraisers for church groups for years and year. Each candle comes with a Bible verse and carries that scriptural theme throughout. If you’re raising money for a church group you should definitely look at these.

21. Money Jar Fundraiser: Get the people in your group to each wrap paper around a glass jar and put the jar on their kitchen counter. Ask them to make a point to empty any change in their pockets or purses and put it in the jar. You can do it for a month or longer. When the event is done everyone turns in their jars and you’ve got your money.

22. Dog Biscuit Fundraiser: Why not look up a recipe for dog treats online and bake some dog biscuits. If you have a fun cookie cutter use it. Then you can advertise your dog biscuit fundraiser. Maybe a local pet store or ASPCA will let you sell your biscuits in their parking lot or outside their door.

23. Sell Fruit Snacks: You might consider selling Welch’s Fruit Snacks instead of candy. They sell their fruit snacks in convenient little bags. While you might not all them health food items they are certainly better for you than candy bars. In fact they are actually packed with vitamins.

24. Restaurant Fundraising Cards: These cards are offered by Restaurant.com. You essentially sell deeply discounted gift cards to their website where they can choose certificates for deep discounts and any of more than 18,000 restaurants nationwide.

25. Boxes of Preportioned Cookie Dough: If you want to sell cookie dough but want to be a little different consider switching from tubs to boxes that contain cookie sized pieces of dough. It makes it much simpler for someone to cook just the number of cookies they want and be a little different than all the people selling tubs.


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