The language we use in our everyday lives constantly changes, evolving alongside our political, cultural, and social climate as we add and drop new words to our vocabulary. The way we talk about homelessness is no exception, with the shift to person-centered language being the most recent progression. But what does that mean? What is person-centered language?
In academic circles, language has traditionally been taught in a strict, grammatically correct way. While using the King’s English–the grammar focused language of the British upper class–can be useful in writing, most people don’t speak in the “proper” tongue. Unfortunately, this means some accents have more societal clout than others. Economic class, race, and ethnicity play the biggest role in this hierarchy. For unhoused people, who tend to come from low economic classes and are more likely to be POC, discrimination awaits simply for the way they speak.