The Term “Homelessness”


As the homeless community continues to grow, they have become a topic that is often talked about. We must remember that the homeless community are still people, therefore it is important to stay informed about what terms we should use to speak about them. 

Homeless people of Los Angeles and advocates express their opinions on what terms to use when addressing homelessness.

Stephanie Jolya has been homeless for two years now with her dog Roxy. She says, “As long as I am seen as human, I don’t mind what people call me.” She then continues, “the term homeless doesn’t bother me but it’s the stereotype associated with it that does.”

The stereotype being unclean, barbaric, and lazy, Jolya thinks that no matter what you call homeless people, the stigma will remain unchanged.

On the other hand, Sophia White, a member of the St. Vincent De Paul Church located in South Central Los Angeles, believes that what terms we use to address people have a huge impact. “When people call them ‘the homeless’ it dehumanizes them.”

White gives free meals to homeless communities in Skid Row every Wednesday night and has taught her kids to give back to the community as well. She continues, “It’s like saying ‘the blacks’ compared to ‘black people,’ it’s just wrong and the least we can do is add ‘people’ at the end of ‘homeless.'”

Engineer Tyus, an engineer firefighter at fire station no. 17 in Los Angeles, also mentions what the fire department calls homeless people. He explains, “Being near skid row, we get at least two calls a day for a ‘homeless relocation,’ meaning we got to kick someone off a property.” 

He also goes on about his morals, saying, “It’s unfortunate that everyone in the department calls them ‘the homeless’ and many firefighters have no empathy for them.” 

Kailen Brown, a UC Irvine student residing in Los Angeles, believes that ethics of a word should not matter when referring to homeless people. “If we call them drug addicts, homeless, or hobos it’s because they earned the title.”

There are others that believe the terms we use should be taken more into consideration. Anne Peterson, a member of a local community organization and a strong advocate for human rights, says, “The stigma associated with the terms ‘homeless people’ and ‘the homeless’ can be avoided by referring to them as ‘individuals living on the street’ or ‘our neighbors in need.’” She adds on, “They are our neighbors, roof or no roof.”