11 myths about homelessness in America – Updated by German Lopez on January 15, 2015, 1:20 p.m. ET


A homeless person.- Oli Scarff / Getty Images News

Myth #1: Homeless people are lazy and don’t want to work. About 44 percent of homeless people around the country did some paid work during the previous month, according to a comprehensive 1996 Urban Institute survey. A 2013 US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) study found 17 percent of homeless adults in families, who share different characteristics than homeless individuals, had paying jobs, and 55 percent had worked during the previous year.

Myth #2: Getting a job will keep someone out of homelessness. The National Low Income Housing Coalition found a full-time minimum wage worker would have to work between 69 and 174 hours a week, depending on the state, to pay for an “affordable” two-bedroom rental unit (the federal government defines affordable as 30 percent of a person’s income). A full-time minimum wage worker couldn’t afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent, a standard set by the federal government, in any state.

Myth #3: Homelessness is long-term problem. The most common duration of homelessness is one or two days, according to University of Pennsylvania researcher Dennis Culhane. Nearly one in six homeless people were classified as chronically homeless — people with disabilities who have been homeless for a year or more, or experienced at least four episodes of homelessness in three years — by HUD’s 2014 survey.