Many people mistakenly lump all individuals not living a conventional lifestyle together in one giant group. The homeless community and off-grid community, for example, are often misunderstood and represented very poorly by traditional media. It’s common for people to confuse the two groups, but the differences between the group’s stereotypical portrayal and reality are extreme.
The Homeless Stereotype
Homeless individuals are often depicted as society’s outcasts or the people who have been cut off from society because of their behaviors or habits. These individual’s status is often conveyed as “inferior, undesirable, and even pathological,” as described by Andrew Smith. They are lumped together as distributing traits of poor character, mental illness and even dangerous criminal tendencies. They are shunned, rejected and made to be invisible. Even worse, homeless individuals are envisioned by some as lazy, freeloaders. They are often seen as taking advantage of welfare programs, but this is far from reality.
The Homeless Reality
The reality is that only about 11% of homeless persons receive disability benefits, but over 40% of homeless persons are eligible for them. Most homeless families are also eligible for welfare, but only 52% of families receive welfare benefits. The reality is that many homeless individuals still work but fail to maintain rent, electric and other payments. People rarely choose to be homeless. The National Coalition to End Homelessness states that the top reasons individuals end up homeless include a lack of affordable housing, unsubstantial living wages, domestic violence, medical bankruptcy and mental illness. Though many homeless people are victims of crimes, they are rarely the perpetrators of violent crimes.
The most common off-grid stereotype is that the individual is some sort of hippie or apocalyptic conspiracy theorists. Television shows and movies often depict ridiculous caricatures that are social outcasts with radical worldviews. They show gun-hoarding, extreme right-wing activists or ignorant farmers that can’t fit in to modern-day life. Another common misconception is that someone who seeks to go off-grid is doing so to somehow escape personal responsibility. It is extremely damaging for the off-grid community to be seen as paranoid, anti-social outcasts that simply can't fit in with society.Often using dirt floors or moss carpets living in shacks. They plant fruiting trees to eat from for nutrients and nut trees for protein.
Professor Phillip Vannini studied over 200 individuals living off-grid in Canada over two years and reached some interesting conclusions. Technology is not the enemy for most off-grid individuals, rather they use technology in a different way. Vannini concluded that going off-grid is far from the ‘escapism’ stereotype but rather it’s about taking personal responsibility for their own environmental footprints. It’s about being self-involved and not taking the modern-day luxuries for granted. There are many communities that choose to live off-grid and are completely self-sustaining. The best example of this is the Amish community where about 300,000 reside in the United States. The group is far from the stereotypical off-grid image, and they continue to thrive in almost perfect contrast to modern-day life.