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Thursday September 29th 2022

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What’s in a Word?

What’s in a Word?

Peace House Community Journal Over the last few years, there has been a movement to stop using the word “homeless” to describe those who don’t have permanent housing. Phrases like “those with lived experience of homelessness” or “the unstably housed” have popped up to fill the void. Those advocating for the change intend to reduce the stigma attached to homelessness by highlighting the difference between the person on the one hand and the place where they sleep on the other. Although I like reducing the stigma around homelessness, I’m ambivalent about the words we use to talk about homelessness. Reducing stigma is great, but solving the problem rather than renaming it would be better. I’d rather see more focus on providing housing than on vocabulary. But having said that, the stigma that arises from the belief that homelessness results from bad choices and irresponsibility makes it more difficult to generate support for efforts to end homelessness. As long as someone believes that a person becomes homeless through their own actions, they are unlikely to provide any support to ending homelessness. The phrases that are proposed to replace “the homeless” at least try to expand our view of this population. Someone may not have a home now, but that situation doesn’t have to be permanent, and it doesn't define that individual. Someone may be on the brink of homelessness because of a lost job, an injury, a mental illness, reckless behavior, or something else beyond their control, and may need to stay with friends or family for a time. Yes, bad decisions may have led to unstable housing, but on the other hand, they may be navigating a difficult period in the most responsible way possible. When I asked some of the community members at Peace House Community how they felt about the new phrases, I expected them to share my view, but I was wrong. They weren’t put off by the phrases, but they also didn’t mind being called [...]

A Golden Age, or Fool’s Gold?

Peace House Community: A Place to Belong By MARTI MALTBY I try to find positive things to talk about in this space, but I also want to make sure the voices of the homeless and others who come to Peace House Community are heard. Those two goals sometimes conflict, as homelessness and hopelessness often go together, especially in Minnesota in February. The optimist in me sees how much resilience and creativity people have shown in the face of the covid pandemic. I admire and appreciate how these folks have found ways to carry on and even to thrive in adversity. I find hope in people”™s refusal to give up, and I am reminded of Saint Augustine”™s comment, “This awful catastrophe is not the end but the beginning. History does not end so. It is the way its chapters open.” (I have no idea which particular catastrophe Augustine had in mind, but neither it nor any of the catastrophes since have ended history.) But when I read Augustine”™s words, I want to ask him, “The beginning of what? What is going to be written in the chapters we are opening?” Over the centuries many people have made wonderful comments about the golden age that is just over the horizon, and about the inevitable paradise that will result from human progress. Here are just a few samples: “Where children are, there is the golden age.” ”“ Novalis “The golden age has not passed; it lies in the future.” - Paul Signac “The 21st century has more potential than perhaps any other in our brief evolutionary history. We stand on the cusp of computing, genetic and energy generation breakthroughs that were only recently in the realm of science-fiction. A golden age of humanity is tantalisingly within our grasp.” - Clive Lewis And yet every golden age has had its share of throw-away people who have to fight just to live on the fringes of society. The maxim that a rising tide lifts all boats ignores [...]

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