When talking about housing stability it is important to be aware of language. Language plays an important role in shaping how we think about things. In turn, how people think about things changes what they believe should be done about them. The Homelessness and Housing Umbrella Group for Waterloo Region has prepared a Language Guide as part of their All Roads Lead to Home: The Homelessness to Housing Stability Strategy.
Some phrases or words that were used to talk about homelessness in the past are now considered outdated, even offensive. Many of these older phrases or words served to perpetuate stigmas and misconceptions. To help shift toward more supportive and respectful use of language, consider following these principles:
1. Focus on the solution rather than the problem.
2. Use ‘people first’ language.
3. Use respectful language.
4. Avoid terms that pass judgment.
5. Avoid terms that ‘rank’ people.
6. Avoid using aggressive language.
7. Avoid terms that don’t recognize context.
For example, replace “homelessness” with “housing stability” – emphasize the vision for the future for that person.
Replace “homeless person” with “person experiencing homelessness” – prioritize the person over any affiliated condition or circumstance.
The use of the term “front line worker” reflects an aggressive or militaristic view of the world, which can give the impression that people are somehow “at war” either with one another and/or against a social issue like poverty.
For more examples see the DOCS_ADMIN-1161467-v1-HHSU_LANGUAGE_GUIDE_UPDATED_APRIL_2012