first of all, apologies for the long post.
these are just a few images, text posts, and tags i nabbed from a thirty-second spin through the “homeless person” search. there are a ton of fucked-up things in that tag - a lot of the “look at this hilarious, weird-looking man in dirty clothing holding up a funny sign” variety. a lot of self-congratulatory “i just bought lunch for a homeless person!”
but this, equating ugliness to homelessness, is specifically what i wanted to comment on.
probably the weirdest part of this, for me, is the use of “homeless person.” that is hard-won terminology brought into use by activists who wanted more humanizing, sympathetic words than bum, vagrant, hobo, beggar, panhandler, whatever. and it’s plain to see here that even that attempt at humanization has been co-opted into a slur. most of these text posts don’t specify what “looking like a homeless person” actually entails, but it’s always implied to be the diametric opposite of beautiful. it’s considered a miracle that someone who “dresses like a homeless person” could appear attractive. and maybe that’s because all three of the people pictured here are wearing expensive designer clothes cut and coloured to look worn-out.
people who are underhoused do not all look the same. they do not all dress the same. the man with the long beard who sits on a street corner with a cardboard sign and a change cup is not the face of every homeless person. but he is deserving of your compassion. and compassion means not rendering him synonymous with ugliness, with undesirability.
i can’t tell you how many times i’ve overheard people congratulating themselves for tossing a fiver into a change cup or passing their leftover lunch to the guy sitting in front of the restaurant. i can’t tell you how many times i’ve heard people waxing poetic about “helping the homeless” without any knowledge or understanding of what that might actually mean. and i can’t tell you how many times i’ve heard people laughing about how they “don’t want to look homeless” or someone’s beard makes him “look like a crazy homeless guy.” so many people harbour so much hatred for people they claim to want to help.
homeless people are beautiful and important and valuable and they deserve so much more than your condescension and your patronizing and your ridicule.
i’ve worked with homeless people for several years and they have the same variety of appearance as currently homed people have. in fact since looking tattered and dusty invites ridicule on top of everything else they are dealing with, people who are struggling tend to do everything they can to not look like they are struggling.
a clockwork pumpkin
by jasmine becket-griffith
Things work a bit different in England
I imagine the intern who did this either quit or got a promotion shortly after