Irrational Fears About Homeless Werewolves That Prowl A Nation’s Streets

person wearing black coat with hood with hands covering their face against a blurred background

The unhoused! Would you be more accepting of them if they weren’t so horrible? But then, perhaps you should pat yourself on the back. You are already cool, calm and accepting of just such a collection of ‘werewolves with chainsaws.’ (We’ll credit psychotherapist Jennifer Gerlach for raising that colourful, if inappropriate, fear of our neighbours.)

Many of us are plagued with an irrational horror of people with mental health issues. A number of studies suggest that as many as three out of four people who are homeless may have mental illness1. So . . . give them a wide berth?

And does that in turn mean that we should give our ‘normal’ neighbours a wide berth as well? Chances are we are friendly towards them, even if only for the occasional smile and nod. It’s unlikely we lie awake at night imagining beady werewolf eyes glowing in dark corners of the bedroom, the air scented with chainsaw oil. And yet one in four people may share the same difficulty as people who are homeless. Those one in four may casually, even eagerly, be accepted as unthreatening neighbours, and live with the same problems that are identified with ‘scary’ homelessness encountered on the streets.

In a recent article, Jennifer Gerlach expands on our society’s graceful acceptance of the mental state of our neighbours. By contrast, she notes, so many are quick to indulge in irrational attitudes directed towards the people who are unhoused — demonizing them for supposed threats to our safety. Read more in Psychology Today: Are Neighbors With Mental Health Conditions Welcome?

The issue is hardly a new one2.

Extending her analysis towards greater acceptance of the unhoused, Gerlach offers another analysis on less threatening and threatened ways of accepting homelessness, also in Psychology Today: A Person With a Face, Unhoused on a Cold Winter Night

You might also want to check out the references in Gerlach’s articles. The references discuss the numbers of people who are homeless and battling not only economic forces beyond their control, but also their own personal problems.


  1. Three out of four is based on estimates of people who are known to be homeless. We don’t know about the health of people who are living in precarious housing situations, like couch surfing, or continuing to live with with a violent partner, or staying temporarily with family or friends.
  2. Try, for example this post  of ours from 2022, about a FoxNews story: Frankenstein Lives! He/She/They Are a Homeless Person. Be Afraid!