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Person first, struggles second

Guarantees and solutions

Two men are standing inside the Aurora Day Resource Center suddenly unsure of themselves. One is a case manager from another organization, the other, Justin, is a man who recently became homeless. They came here based on a promise improperly given, that Homeward Bound Bus tickets are available for them at ADRC and they need only pick them up. But instead of bus tickets, they are confronted with a stark reality; they haven’t actually spoken with anyone at  ADRC and there is no bus ticket. They put their hope in a vague promise that grew into a guarantee that nearly blew up in their faces.

Hope and trust are two of the most precious resources in the homeless services world. They are essential for building positive relationships and positive relationships are necessary for securing housing and ending homelessness. Even so, hope and trust are often the hardest things to get and they’re the easiest things to lose. Few things can crush hope and quench trust like broken promises. This, in turn, creates a quicksand for the soul that sucks a person into deeper despair, frustration, anxiety and a lack of motivation. Thoughts become internalized, “I tried to move forward and I literally can’t. What’s the point in trying?”

But this is not the end of the story. There may be no guarantees, but there are solutions.

Justin’s story

ADRC staff sat down with Justin and listened to his story. He’s been living with relatives in Colorado, but mental health concerns and strained family relationships created an unsafe home environment. With nowhere else to turn he’s looking to move back to Arizona to live with a former college roommate until he can finish school and get back on his feet. He came to the ADRC frustrated and hopeless. Fortunately, staff was able to process his application that same day and secure him a Greyhound Bus Ticket that left later in the week. Additionally, Comitis Crisis Center offered him a bed for his remaining nights in Colorado. He was provided some food and supplies for his journey home. The ADRC is thrilled to help support Justin in finding solutions to unforeseen obstacles.

The words we choose

Learning About homelessness: terminology
People Experiencing Homelessness vs. Homeless Person
Why do homeless service providers use the terminology “people experiencing homelessness,” instead of the popular “homeless people?” Because the subtle shift in language dramatically changes the paradigm through which we view the issue of homelessness.

A “homeless person” is defined by their homelessness. They are homeless first, and a person second. It isn’t any wonder then that “homeless people” are not always treated as people at all but as something subhuman. This phrase can provoke negative stereotypes in the public’s sub-consciousness and promote blaming the person for their circumstance.

A “person experiencing homelessness” however is always a person first. People are more than their current circumstance. They may be currently experiencing homelessness but it doesn’t define their primary identity. They can still move forward with dignity because they are human beings. This thinking not only empowers people experiencing homelessness to begin moving forward but also enables service providers to offer better support and solutions. This phrase is essential for establishing a zero homelessness mindset.