Newsletter (June 6, 2023)

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In recent years, the terms “unhoused,” “houseless,” and “housing insecurity” have gained popularity in public conversations about homelessness.

More people – from members of the media to our coalition partners – have begun to ask us about these terms, and why we at SchoolHouse Connection have chosen primarily to use the phrase “experiencing homelessness.” In responding, it is not our intent to tell people what to say or how to talk about homelessness. Phrases fall in and out of popularity over time, people adopt new terms (often based on what they hear others say), and language will continue to evolve. We write here to explain the choices that we have made, knowing that language shapes perception, and that perception informs actions. In short, it matters both what we say and what we do. 

At SchoolHouse Connection, we have made an intentional choice to primarily use the phrase “experiencing homelessness,” rather than “unhoused,” “houseless,” or “housing insecure,” when we communicate to the general public and policymakers about child and youth homelessness. Here’s why.

1. Our goal is to help the public better understand how homelessness is experienced by children, youth, and families; the protections and services provided by law; and the need for stronger policies and more support. 

2. Phrases like “houseless,” and “unhoused” contribute to the misconception that if people have roofs over their heads, they are not experiencing homelessness.

3. “Housing insecurity,” too, is sometimes used to refer to “homelessness,” even when situations that are being described very clearly meet the early care and education laws’ definition of homelessness.

4. The terms “houseless,” “unhoused,” and “housing insecurity” put an emphasis on housing as the sole condition to be addressed. But homelessness is a complex phenomenon with many contributing factors and different kinds of instability.

5. Finally, we use the phrase “experiencing homelessness” because of the many children, youth, and parents who have told us that homelessness is something that happened to them – it does not define them. It is something they went through, it is not who they are.

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