Letter: The ‘homeless’ label
I want to commend The Recorder for the ongoing coverage of the families living temporarily in Greenfield motels. It has been obvious that The Recorder’s highlighting of this very emotionally and logistically complex story has helped spur various levels of community and political involvement in the situation, much of which we should be aware and proud of as a community.
What I am consistently disturbed by however, is The Recorder’s choice of highly stigmatizing language regarding the situation. In particular, the use of the word “homeless” is one which carries many deeply embedded negative connotations in our society. I love to open The Recorder each morning and see that my town is highly engaged with the pressing issues at hand, but to “headline” other peoples distress on a daily basis can be dehumanizing, irresponsible and fostering a culture of “us” and “them.”
As an educator in the Greenfield High School community, I’m particularly concerned with how this “label” will negatively affect our temporary, or possibly long-term, young students from these families. I have had the privilege of meeting and potentially working with several of these young people, all of them ranging from 13 to 15 years old. We are all well aware of how hard it must be to navigate a new town and school environment at such an age, but I can hardly fathom the terror of stigmatization that must follow these “homeless” young people through the halls and streets of a small, relatively insular town like ours.
So please, Recorder, keep up the good work, but let’s treat the guests in our town like we would want to be treated. Families who have fallen upon hard times, especially the children, need our support, love and positive reinforcement. While we as a community dialogue and work to meet this “issue” and its effects in the best ways possible, let’s not forget that a huge part of our responsibility is to meet the “people” involved as human beings, no prefixs or labels required.
Let’s drop the idea that these families are “homeless” and accept the fact that whether we like it or not, these families are currently “guests” in our collective home. If not for anything else, let’s do it for the self-esteem and confidence of the kids and teenagers involved.