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Language Matters: Shifting the Narrative on Homelessness

Are you aware of the role language plays in shaping our perceptions and attitudes toward various social issues?

One area where language can have a particularly harmful impact is in how we discuss homelessness and the unhoused community.

Words and phrases like "clean up," commonly used when addressing homelessness, can perpetuate harmful stigmas and contribute to the marginalization of those experiencing homelessness.

When we speak about "cleaning up" areas where members of our unhoused community reside, we are implicitly suggesting that these individuals and their presence are somehow dirty, unwanted, or unsightly.

This language dehumanizes and stigmatizes the unhoused community, reinforcing negative stereotypes and attitudes towards them. It further alienates and "others" individuals who are already vulnerable and marginalized.

The use of terms like "clean up" implies that homelessness itself is a problem that can be solved simply by removing or hiding the visible manifestations of poverty and housing insecurity. This perspective ignores the root causes of homelessness, such as lack of affordable housing, income inequality, and systemic discrimination.

We must recognize the power of language in shaping our attitudes and perceptions and commit to using language that respects the dignity and humanity of every individual, including those experiencing homelessness.

Now that you are informed, let's spread truth and wisdom.

Love wins,

Jason McGill | Executive Director of NWYS

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