Understanding Homelessness (了解無家可歸)

December 6, 2021 Guides & Reports

Frequently Asked Questions

Homelessness is the state of lacking a permanent home. Getting laid off, leaving a foster home, escaping a violent relationship, unexpected expenses, fire, disabilities, and family tragedies can all render a person unhoused. A shortage of affordable housing and high rents also mean people are increasingly vulnerable to losing their home.

Here are some common misconceptions about Homelessness.


MYTH: People that are unhoused are too lazy to get a job.

There are many unhoused people who do have jobs. However, they still cannot afford housing with their wages.

Also, for a job interview (and continued employment), people need access to a shower and presentable clothing; they also need resumes, transportation, a stable telephone number and address. Even if they have these items and/or skills, searching for food and shelter is difficult and time-consuming. Unhoused people on the streets are often spending most of their time trying to survive at the most basic level on a day-to-day basis.

Another important thing to note is that the available government assistance for disabled and low-income people provides very limited financial support (roughly $500 - $900 a month) to meet basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.





MYTH: People experiencing homelessness can go home to their family.

Not everyone has a supportive family or any family at all. Some run away from abusive parents and partners or have been disowned by their family.



MYTH: Unhoused people can move to a cheaper place.

People prefer to stay in the community they are familiar with--places where they have connections to friends, family, food, medical care, and other resources. The proximity to these resources are essential to anyone and everyone.

San Francisco is a city celebrated for its inclusion and diversity. There is value in people being able to live in a safe space here, whatever their community may be.




MYTH: People experiencing homelessness are flocking to San Francisco for the public benefits.

56% of the Bay Area’s homeless population have lived in their county for 10 or more years, and a vast majority have lived in their current county for more than one year. Contrary to common misconception, most unhoused people previously had permanent housing where they currently live, particularly in the Bay Area.

Also, public assistance is just as difficult to navigate in the city as it is anywhere else. There are various criteria based on income, age, status, and other considerations. Applying for them is a full-time job with no guarantee.




MYTH: Unhoused people can sleep in a shelter instead of on the streets.

Reservation systems are hard to navigate, and shelters have long waitlists for short-term stays only. There are simply not enough beds in emergency shelters in accessible areas of the city. Additionally, existing shelters often have strict restrictions on who can stay where (families are often split up), when to come in, and other rules people have to abide by. There are also other reasons unhoused people choose not to stay at a shelter: stigma, mistreatment, the general loss of autonomy and freedom, among others.



MYTH: People experiencing homelessness are drug and alcohol addicts.

It is a stereotype that all unhoused people are drug and alcohol addicts. Many live sober lives. For those with addiction problems, some became unhoused as a result of untreated mental illnesses, and some use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to survive on the streets.




  • In the 2016-2017 school year, nearly 250,000 K-12 students in California were homeless; nationwide, families with children make up ⅓ of the homeless population and are the fastest growing segment
  • In San Francisco, there were 8035 people experiencing homelessness in 2019, a 17% increase since 2017
  • 7% of the homeless population in San Francisco are Asian/Pacific Islanders
  • Homeless people have an average life expectancy of around 50 years of age, almost 20 years lower than housed populations


  • 在2016-2017學年,加州有近25萬名幼兒園到12年級的學生無家可歸;在全國范圍內,有子女的家庭佔無家可歸人口的三分之一,是增長最快的人口
  • 在三藩市,2019年有8035人無家可歸,自2017年以來增加了17%
  • 三藩市7%的無家可歸者是亚裔
  • 無家可歸者的平均預期壽命約為50歲,比居住人口低近20歲

What can I do to help?

  • Avoid stereotyping or stigmatizing people experiencing homelessness.
  • Acknowledge their presence.
  • Understand their struggles by learning more about homelessness.
  • Have a conversation with family and friends about homelessness; help debunk these myths.
  • Donate or volunteer with nonprofit organizations
  • Contact your local elected officials to prioritize homelessness issues.


  • 減少對無家可歸者的成見或污名化。
  • 對他們給予理會和關懷。
  • 通過了解更多關於無家可歸的知識來體會他們的處境。
  • 與家人和朋友談論有關無家可歸的話題;並嘗試揭穿謬見。
  • 捐贈或志願加入非營利組織
  • 聯繫當地官員,優先解決無家可歸問題。

The information contained herein is intended for educational purposes only and not applicable in all cases. For legal advice, please contact the Asian Law Caucus.

本文包含的參考信息並不適用於所有情況。 尋求法律建議,請聯繫亞洲法律聯會。