Interventions for homelessness in developing countries are frequently negative and unhelpful. They tend to exist in an environment of hostility, suspicion and apathy towards homeless people. This environment is cultivated and enhanced by negative and derogatory language and images used by politicians, the public and the media in their portrayal of homeless people as unemployed, beggars, drunks and criminals. Findings from a recently completed study of homelessness in nine developing countries suggest that this perception is largely false. This article argues that, until the popular misconception of homeless people is corrected, even the most well‐intentioned interventions will have little long‐term effect.