Exposing Harmful Advice: Poverty Shaming Tactics That Won’t Prevent Homelessness

poverty shaming advice

This article exposes the damaging advice given to those struggling with high rent, highlighting examples like starvation suggestions and negotiating upfront payments, which often perpetuate poverty rather than alleviate it. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of advocating for systemic change by engaging with local representatives to push for lower rental rates, rent control, and affordable housing solutions.

Telling People to Stop Eating so They Can Avoid Homelessness is Terrible Advice!

“How to save money when the rent is too high” is certainly a trending topic, which is very telling. Perhaps worse, however, is the series of answers so-called experts have been offering in response. Can you say poverty shaming without saying poverty shaming? Here are some horrific online examples.

Major Media Outlets and Reputable Online Platforms Poverty Shame People Who Can’t Make Rent

Since the question of what to do when the rent is too high started popping up, a slew of self-proclaimed experts have attempted to answer. Their responses were not only ludicrous but also infused with not-so-subtle traces of poverty shaming. This is when rich people tell poor people how to be poor in a way they perceive as respectable, even when it’s not realistic.

This take can be downright awful. Below are some pieces that feature the opposite of expert advice.

*Readers Beware: Please do not follow through with any of these suggestions. They are examples of what not to do and what not to advise others to do. The consequences of following the following misinformed suggestions could be dire:

Learn more about how misinformation hurts homeless people and how to recognize it in our latest series.

Buy Less Food

Yes! People are suggesting that those who can’t afford their rental rates should, you know, starve themselves a little.

In one particularly awful article that featured this advice (which we refuse to link or give added exposure to), the author mentions that more than 30% of the food abundance in America gets thrown away. What the author failed to point out, however, is that this food waste is the result of the food industry and not the individual consumers.

Unsold food that goes uneaten in America isn’t given to poor, hungry people. Instead, it is fed to the landfills. Meanwhile, food insecurity harms 1 out of 5 American children, and 44 million people struggle with hunger nationwide. Hunger is a condition that often predicates homelessness; it does not prevent it.

Pay Upfront

Some other so-called experts have decided the best approach is to haggle with the same landlords who are poaching rental rates. Someone who can’t afford to pay on time can certainly not afford to pay upfront.

Also, it’s important to point out that offering to pay upfront rewards the landlords for their inhumane behavior, which, as of late, has included things like double-digit rent hikes, illegal self-help evictionsrefusal to comply with moratoriums, hiding unfavorable clauses in the fine print, and raising rental rates at quadruple the pace of the median wage.

Commit to a Longer Lease

In other words, pay the rent you can’t afford for longer than planned. Like the option above, this strategy again rewards the landlord’s bad behavior and encourages the landlord to continue taking advantage of America’s looming affordability crisis.

However, this option is decidedly worse than the former because it forces the tenant to endure hardship and rent burden for a period that exceeds the norm, which only increases the potential to fall behind on rent and face eviction.

Get Rid of Your Transportation

Transportation is tricky because it can be perceived as a luxury. However, several studies prove that a lack of access to transportation drives people into homelessness. Meanwhile, having better access to transportation (specifically owning a vehicle rather than relying on public transportation) is proven to prevent homelessness.

In articles featuring this advice, the author suggests an action that increases the likelihood of homelessness rather than decreases it. So, while this might seem like a reasonable way to cut corners (no pun intended), it actually does more harm than good.

People without reliable transit miss out on employment and educational opportunities, which would have led to better housing options down the road.

Rent a Room Out of Somebody’s House

In other words, become a sheltered homeless person. Several articles featuring poorly researched “advice” suggested actions that would effectively make the reader homeless. These include renting a room in someone else’s house, moving in with a friend or relative, or spending time in a hotel room while you pull things together.

All of these situations are referred to as sheltered homelessness or sometimes hidden homelessness. This is when a person is not visibly homeless (i.e., living outside in spaces unfit for human habitation) but still lacks a safe, adequately sized, and reliable accommodation to call home.

The Best Thing to Do If Your Rent’s Too High is Contact Your Local Representatives and Complain

City leaders admit to acting in their own best interests and caving to the whims of whoever complains the most. If you are facing an affordability crisis, now is the time to call your representatives and lobby for lower rental rates, rent control, and affordable housing for all.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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