Authored by: Edward Larkins
Hobo. Tramp. Not the nicest words in the English vocabulary. What about the word “homeless?” A nice neutral word to describe someone lacking a place to call their own. Or is it really that neutral? In a thought provoking article, The Daily of the University of Washington proposes the word homeless has gone down the same sad road as hobo and tramp.
The article notes that over time the term homeless became a “preferable alternative to hobo or tramp.” The same terms I mentioned above. Terms which now have a negative connotation. A negative connotation that now stains the word homeless.
What’s happened with hobo, tramp and homeless (as the article claims) is a term known a pejoration. It “occurs when a word that originally had a neutral connotation develops one that is negative, resulting in words that replace the pejorized terms.”
In effect we create an endless cycle of words and phrases, fresh ones used to replaced those with a negative stamp of society’s disapproval.
With Seattle’s homeless population rising 4 perfect in 2018, touching the lives of 12,000 people in the city, The Daily of UW offers this thought:
“The connotation of the term homeless, however, there is often a lack of empathy associated, dehumanizing a condition that for many is not all-encompassing.”
Many who society would label as homeless are turning on the term, and even turning on what some might think constitutes a home.
In an article with Hoodline.com, Amy Farah Weiss, “founder and director of the St. Francis Homelessness Challenge and a former mayoral candidate,” recalls an encounter with a woman who hadn’t lived in a “traditional house for over two decades” yet did not consider herself homeless.
As Weiss said in the article, When they think of ‘home,’ ‘home is where the heart is,’ right? Home is where you feel a connection and you’re going to go back there after you do something else out in the world.”
Homelessness need not be someone’s identity. It is merely a human experience brought on by one or many unfortunate circumstances.
The Daily UW proposes we cycle the term homeless out our vernacular and replace it with a more proper and true term:
“As a society striving for an all-inclusive and diverse body of individuals, the term houseless should duly replace homeless in an effort to adequately embrace a growing population of individuals who are not currently being fairly treated.”
We at Faces In Between certainly encourage all our readers and supporters to make the word houseless part of their conversation.