Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 70 - Homeless Facts, Studies, And Stystictics

In a homeless forum I asked this question to students:

Do you think it is good for society to strip homelessness into categories?
Example: homeless vets, homeless teens, homeless and pregnant, homeless elderly, homeless alcoholic, homeless child and all the ones I missed.

Or is it better to just call a homeless person "homeless"?

And why?

Maybe its a funny question. But I do feel its a simple one. I have not had a single response from these students. Today, I asked my work friend the same question. He had an answer right away. I asked this question because I want to know how deep this "capitalization on the homeless market" that I believe exist, really is. Is this something real or am I just making it up? I don't think I am. SOOOOOO I set out to find the root cause.... the main source (if you will) of what fuels this idea I have.

It didn't take long! Facts, studies, and  statistics are where I would up. In fact I believe this is where MOST of the problems begin. Now, my friend that I mentioned this to today was firm on his position and it didn't take him long to have answers. Facts, studies, statistics and polls are all based on research and data. In relation to homeless people, we need this data. Why? Because, as my friend mentioned, homeless people are still part of society. They are still active members in the community. Without data that includes homeless people, all the other data about non-homeless people would be, in a way, wrong. And data is what moves the economy (whether good or bad). To me this makes sense. Sure, I can go along with that.

After that was out of the way my friend and I got into it. At which point he was agreeing with me. My thoughts are that its the way this data is DISPENSED that causes homeless people to be stripped into categories and causes misleading facts about homeless people (such as, homeless people are drunks, homeless people are... bla bla bla, we have heard it all before) and also causes people to have a sway of opinions about the issue which directly affects the way we interact with a homeless person when you see him. My friend and I both agree that the dispense of data in regards to homelessness is in fact, bad!

Now, some people right now are saying "Well, Homelessrob, we need that info because we can use it for good and target the problem". I understand that. I just don't think that has become the case with the homeless issue.

Let me explain a little more, please!

Let's say a poll is done and let's say the pool said something like this:

A study of 30,000 homeless people finds that at 14% homeless vets are the larges population of homeless people. Out of that 14 %, 40% are known alcoholics.

Now this was an actual post I read. I can't say for sure if it was 40% or another number but for the sake of this conversation, it doesn't matter. Basically, all this study offered were two facts about what THEY found:
Fact 1: Homeless vets were the largest "group" found of 30,000 homeless people;
Fact 2 : A portion of those vets where alcoholics (I hated the post for that. I thought "why did they even have to add that"? But what I'm telling you is that I read and the truth).

So I read this and now my opinion is swayed. OK! So now this study goes out and before you know it its on Twitter. Some guy with 1,000,000 followers post it. Out of his 1,000,000 followers maybe 20,000 read it because they have a interest in the topic. Now, lets not be fools here. We all know what happens next! That study turns into something that sounds like this:

In a nationwide study, 14% of homeless people are vets in which most of whom are alcoholics.

Whether this person has a link to the actual study or not  doesn't matter. He said it and now all his followers have been swayed (whether good or bad doesn't matter). To me this is the problem right here - well, a very large portion of the problem I should say. Because now people are swayed in opinions and the focus is not on homelessness in its entirety.

Its like that game we all played in 1st grade. The one where all the students stand in a large circle and the teacher says one sentence into the ear of the first kid in the circle. Each kid whispers the same sentence into the ear of the student next to him or her. But the time the sentence goes all around the circle and back into the teachers ear the sentence is different.

Listen to this:
In a nationwide poll, homeless vets where found to have EASIER access to MORE non-homeless benefits then any other type of homeless person.

Think about this.................................
Is this a fact? Or did I just make that up?

Lets try it a different way:
In a nationwide poll, homeless teen mothers were found to have EASIER access to MORE non-homeless benefits than any other type of homeless person.

Is this a fact? Or did I just make it up?

It almost sounds the same. The first statement sounded like it might have had more truth in it than the second to me. That's only because I seem to always be asked  if I am a vet when it comes to matters of homelessness. I never see a form that asked me if I'm a teen mother.

BUT, to someone who has never dealt with homelessness either statement could sound true. And in all these cases, the result is to swaying the opinions of people about the issues.

Just because I said it doesn't make it true.

More often than not the dispensing of this information comes from people that have a special interest in the topic. People want (and in almost all cases NEED) to have access to data and use it . Why? Because if they didn't, how would they make themselves known. SEE, I get it!

How could a non-profit ever be seen or heard if they had nothing to say? And they also need to stay relevant to the topic. So, they take data and spread it. OK!

One thing I noticed that I think supports this crazy idea of mine are the words that seem to surround the topic (in this case homelessness). I always see words like: MOST, MAJORITY, MOST LIKELY, MORE, MORE AND MORE, HIGHEST NUMBER OF, BIGGEST!

It makes since too. Most people want others to know that what they are doing contributes to the MOST worst of of the topic (in this case homelessness). Oh, you don't think I'm right?
Go to twitter and just count how many times you hear the words "smallest" and compare.

Since I'm here (and I don't know... or care of that matter), what is the second biggest "group" of homeless people? Or the 3rd biggest? Of this matter, who is the smallest? This data must be out there. It has to be. But I'm willing to bet most people don't know off the top of their heads.

Also, and this is just a quick thought, wouldn't it make sense that if we are trying to stop homelessness to start with the smallest "group" and work our way out to the bigger "group" of homeless people? Wouldn't that really be a better direction?

I can just think of all the people that said "yes" to that then immediately thought about how that would affect them and began looking for reasons to say "no".

Because lets face it, what we are doing now is not working! How do I know that?
Well, because of me. I don't care about the data. I don't care about the pools or studies. I look at homelessness as a whole. If you are homeless you are simply "homeless". I don't care for the "fine details".

I support the "its not working" notion with a few facts of my own.

1: Homelessness is real!
2: Homelessness is, and continues to be, an ongoing problem!
3: Over the last 5 years more and more people are becoming homeless (I might need some data to prove that.... but I'm pretty sure it is undisputed to date).

Are these really facts or did I just make them up?

P.S These are just my foggy-minded opinions. Just because I said it does not make it true. I don't believe that any non-profit, organization, or average Jo looking to help the problem, sets out to make the problem worse. I'll give you one more quick fact:

MORE and MORE people every day are helping put a end to homelessness! I believe in my heart that is a true FACT!

One more thing then I've got to go. I have not slept well in about 3 days and I'm beat!

I NEVER ask people to "re tweet" or "like" or "share". I haven't done that one single time. However, for this post I would like some feedback to see what people think. SO, IF you feel its worth it -

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homelessrob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
homelessrob said...

My friend Melanie Butterworth asked me if I would post this for her:

I read your blog but am having trouble leaving a comment ... it's probably my computer. Anyway, I liked what you said. There is an old book called "How to Lie with Statistics" and it describes how people use numbers to justify their opini...ons. There are so many ways people can manipulate numbers to make the world appear the way they want it. You are truly an expert in the FIELD of homelessness, you know? I believe what you wrote is true because you are not sharing your research from some apartment ... you are actually there.

joseph2dogs said...

As to what section Of the homeless populace one belongs to I do not care, And as To the # of Homeless people in this country There a a very big difference of opinion as to the figure The dept of housing and urban development estimates now one to one Point two million People,These # everyone believes to be Low since it is How they receive Their Money I say They Are probably Close If not inflated.
Irregardless I now There is a gross amount of Misspending Of both Public Funds and private sector Donations across the Board with Homeless Agency's and this Problem Is the Cause Of no advancement In the eradication of Homelessness. If the people who receive The Money to help the Homeless are allowed to continue spending it On programs That Have shown To have a High Failure rate, are never held accountable for there spending Practices This battle can Never Be won.