The mission of FP is to provide temporary shelter and individualized support to working families experiencing homelessness. Experiencing homelessness?
Why don’t we just say, “homeless families”?
We see too much potential in the families we serve to allow them to be defined by their housing status. These are families first – families with children, families who are working, families with hopes and dreams for their futures. Soren Kierkegaard said, “If you name me, you negate me. By giving me a name, a label, you negate all the other things I could possibly be.” Hence, we see each family as a family first – a family in a difficult situation.
When a speaker refers to “the homeless,” the listener often conjures up a picture of a single man – perhaps dirty and disheveled – living on the streets and begging for money at a stoplight. They seldom think of children, youth and families. Lumping all persons under the single heading of being homeless tends to make us either forget that families and children actually become homeless OR if we do entertain the fact that families with children can become homeless, we minimize the condition compared to the “real homeless” – the ones we picture in our heads. We must remember that all homelessness is difficult and traumatizing.
Words like “unhoused” and “housing insecure” put the emphasis on the housing aspect of homelessness. Homelessness is a complex issue with many factors contributing to its existence. I have seen signs in government offices that read, “Housing ends homelessness.” I disagree. Merely putting a roof over someone’s head is not going to help the person raise their income, obtain additional training or education, address health issues including mental health, learn how to manage their money, or support their efforts to find affordable childcare and transportation . . . issues that need to be addressed before a family is truly stable. Family Promise addresses the root causes of homelessness thereby ending it once and for all.
Because of the negative connotation that being homeless carries, many schools and those charged with assisting families experiencing homelessness have begun using phrases such as “families in transition” and “McKinney Vento families” so that families who are facing homelessness are more willing to self-identify. This will give them the opportunity to receive the services designed to help them through this challenging period.
Let’s agree that families experience homelessness. It is not who they are. They are families, just like our own families, who hope for an opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their children. Once we see them as families first, we will begin to break down the stigma that surrounds becoming homeless and begin to chip away at the negative stereotypes that accompany this situation that, frankly, could happen to any of us.
Thank you for remembering that words matter, labels limit, and it is more than just semantics.
Honoring your compassion and support of families facing homelessness,