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©2019 by Health in Justice Action Lab: Changing the Narrative Initiative. Proudly created with Wix.com

"Dealing with the city's homeless addicts"

The Tired Narrative: 

News articles refer to large swaths of people as "homeless." 

Shorthand like "the homeless," "homeless addicts," "tent cities," "bums," and "urban blight," are frequently used to describe the conditions of a heterogeneous population facing numerous social, health, and economic hardships.

 

Such phrases flatten the complexity and strip necessary context of an important public health issue.

WHY?

Person-first language is important when identifying people who are currently experiencing or have previously experienced homelessness.

 

Doing so highlights that homelessness is a temporary condition of an individual or family, and avoids framing it as a permanent trait. Research has shown that there is stigma attached towards labelling people as "homeless" and that the label can be demotivating for those seeking more stable housing and other treatment and services.

The Informed Narrative:

A man who would not rather not be described as homeless: "I have a home, it's Palo Alto. I'm unhoused." - The Hoodline

Instead of referring to people as "homeless," it is more precise and accurate to use person-first language: "experiencing homelessness," is "unstably housed,"or "people going through a period of homelessness."

Moreover, unstable housing is not an essential trait to any one person. Lacking stable housing is often due to a series of circumstances, such as mental health and financial struggles. Stories about people who are unstably housed must bring in the unique context of the people they're describing.

Connect with Expert Sources:

Jess Tilley, drug user activist, Reframe the Blame

 

Robert Ashford, recovery researcher, University of the Sciences