Is homelessness a men’s issue?

This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Week.

Is homelessness a men’s issue?  Indeed it is. Men are the majority of the homeless. But it goes deeper then that.  Not only are men the majority of the homeless, but homelessness is the dead end for so many other men’s issues.  How many homeless men do you think have been raped by the family courts? How many homeless men do you think have been falsely accused?  How many homeless men have been victims of domestic violence and ignored? How many homeless men have been severely depressed and overlooked. The sad fact is that homelessness is the end of the road for many men after they have faced years upon years of misandry, people looking the other way, and no services available when they face hardship and discrimination. Nearly all of the issues we discuss and work to bring into public awareness find their dead end in the two male exit points: homelessness or suicide.

This is not to say that the only path to homelessness is misandry.  Mental illness surely plays a role as does economics and a host of other forces.  It is a complex problem but one aspect that has likely never been considered by the mainstream media or psychological professionals is the horrible impact misandry has upon millions of men.

Just like other men’s issues, very few people want to talk about or publicize that men are the majority of the homeless.  Search the web for facts on homelessness and you will be hard pressed to find most organizations who support the homeless making a big deal over the fact that most of their clients are male.  Even the research oriented groups seem to be leery to focus on this fact.  This will likely not come as a surprise to the readers of AVFM.  The sad fact is that almost every area where men face hardship, trauma, and discrimination you will see a pattern of avoidance and eye turning. Male suicides, male victims of domestic violence, male circumcisions, male deaths in the workplace, longevity and on and on.  All of these areas have something in common.  No one wants to focus on the pain of men.  People just don’t want to see it.  Groups who try to help the homeless are probably very aware that if they advertise their client base to be male they are much less likely to receive donations and funding.  This is probably why you see the emphasis on homeless families even though they are a minority of the homeless.

What are the percentage of the homeless that are men? I found that the estimate for the percentages of men ranged from 60-80%.  The US Interagency Council on Homelessness estimates that of the chronically homeless 75% are male.  One third of those are veterans.  In case you are wondering 97% of the homeless vets are male.

But aren’t these guys just a bunch of drunks?  Well, that is the assumption that has prevailed for many years. N’er do wells and drunks.  In some ways this attitude continues still powered on by the invisible misandrist expectations for men.  But wait a minute. Some folks are starting to understand that there may be some powerful underlying aspects to homelessness that most are simply not seeing.  The sad fact is that most every homeless man may have started out his slide into homelessness with a huge trauma like divorce, death, illness, loss of job and probably more than one of these or others all rolled up into one big plate of stink.  These trauma overload the system of any person, but they are particularly hard for men.  Why?  Because no one wants to hear his pain, and no one wants to hear his story.  When people see a man in pain they run, when they see a woman in pain they consider it a call for action. So men are left alone to deal with huge amounts of pain.  Often they find ways to move through it and sometimes they end up paralyzed and homeless.

Another reason that men predominate the homeless is due to extended families going out of their way to help the women and being much less likely to go out of their way to help the men. Extended families see the women as vulnerable on the street and find some alternative. The men? They are not seen as being so vulnerable.  They are left holding the bag and not having any sort of help. He can handle himself on the street….

To complicate matters further men’s esteem is generally based on his success, when he fails and is ignored even by his extended family, his esteem will likely plummet like a rock.

He finds himself in a huge dilemma.  He is now dependent.  This is hellish bind for men who are valued based on their ability to be independent.  When men are dependent they are disdained.  Peter Marin wrote a powerful article on men’s homelessness titled Abandoning Men: Jill Gets Welfare–Jack Becomes Homeless.  Here’s a quote from Marin’s article that focuses on the problem of men’s dependency:

“To put it simply: men are neither supposed nor allowed to be dependent. They are expected to take care of others and themselves. And when they cannot or will not do it, then the assumption at the heart of the culture is that they are somehow less than men and therefore unworthy of help. An irony asserts itself: by being in need of help, men forfeit the right to it.”

Marin describes a powerful double bind for men. If they admit to needing help they will be disdained and devalued.  If they don’t admit to needing help they are alone and on their own.  So when these men are moving towards homelessness and not getting any sort of help or support along the way what they do get is a sledge hammer of judgement from the culture that since they are dependent they are less then men and officially unworthy of getting the assistance that had, of course, been refused all along.

The amazing thing is that we don’t have more homeless men.

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