Myth busting with the Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative
Author: Stefanie Knowlton
Posted: July 29, 2019

Mythbusters Homelessness Myths vs. Facts

 The Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative at Portland State University launched a public education campaign this week with an interactive quiz, video and more to help bust some myths about homelessness. 

“Reading social media and online commentary, you see lots of people with inaccurate information about homelessness,” said Center Director and Associate Professor of Land-Use Planning Marisa Zapata.

“We know that facts provide an essential foundation for neighbors to come together with elected officials to make just, democratic decisions.”

The center identified its first set of 12 myths and corresponding facts pulled from sources including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Multnomah County reports and the National Alliance to End Homelessness. 

One myth is “People experiencing homelessness are flocking to Portland for the services.” But fewer than 10 percent report coming to Multnomah County for that reason. Family and job opportunities were the most popular reasons cited in the 2017 Point in Time Count for those living unsheltered.

The center posted the mythbusters campaign on its website, created a video and developed a quiz to help people identify what they think is true about homelessness vs. what is true.

Changing the narrative and encouraging action is one of the center’s five goals. It also strives to study ways to reduce homelessness at PSU, research innovative approaches to supporting people experiencing homelessness, explore housing as healthcare and conduct policy and program evaluation. 

Earlier this month, the research center helped Street Roots survey people experiencing homelessness to help inform the creation of a Portland Street Response, a non-police response unit. This fall the center will conduct a survey of PSU students, staff and faculty to understand who is experiencing homelessness in the university community. 

“This is only the beginning of our work to help the public understand the systemic causes of homelessness and the solutions,” Zapata said.