Language is important when we talk about homelessness

Although we’ve thankfully moved beyond using the words ‘hobo’ and ‘dero’, we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to the language around homelessness.

The media has a significant influence on both the way that the public perceives homelessness, and people who are experiencing homelessness.

In recent weeks there has been increasing coverage on ‘clean-up’ operations in Melbourne’s CBD which target homeless encampments, and the people living in them. Such activities seek to improve the safety and well-being of those people sleeping rough, as well as other members of the public. But the way we talk about such activities, and the people they target, is important.

‘Clearing out homeless camps’ and ‘ridding the streets of the homeless’ are heavily loaded phrases. They bring to mind a vermin control operation. Reports focusing on the disposal of syringes also stereotype the homelessness.

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