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Marly Carlisle

Marly Carlisle, '17

Words matter

"People are homeless – they're not ‘homeless people.'"

Tod Lipka, the Executive Director of one of the largest homeless service providers in Los Angeles, said this at a panel I moderated titled "Abolishing Homelessness: It's Not How, It's When." He was emphasizing the critical importance of highlighting a person's humanity when speaking about homelessness.

I think about homelessness on a daily basis – I wrote my thesis about it, I teach a course about it, and I serve on the board of directors of a homeless service provider. When discussing the issue of homelessness, it is easier to think about people who are homeless as abstract numbers and statistics, rather than considering their individual humanity.

The mindful practice of saying "people who are homeless" instead of "homeless people" reemphasizes the individual experience of homelessness. It reminds me that "they" are "us," but with different life circumstances. They are our neighbors, our community members, our fellow citizens. Us.

I've moved away from "the homeless" and "homeless people," opting for a more personal, human approach when discussing homelessness.

Marly Carlisle, ’17, majored in Political Science.
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