Sunday, April 21, 2013

Those Awful Homeless People

Once again, we see a story about how "those homeless people" are.  The headline reads "Homeless man convicted for Victoria teen death."  It's a story of how a man stabbed a teen at a bus stop unprovoked, apparently under the paranoid delusion that this teen was part of a gang who was stalking him.  Once again, the media seized on the homeless card, adding it in to stir things up.  This time, however, the story implies that homeless people are violent and mentally ill, rather than good honest folks who return lost rings.  The media just can't get enough of the homeless.

Now I'm pretty certain the author of this story was not trying to associate violence with homeless people, but why mention homelessness at all?  As a case planner who has met hundreds and hundreds of homeless people from every walk of life, this is the equivalent of saying "bearded man convicted for stabbing."  Cory's homelessness was the least of his worries, and could perhaps be seen as a symptom of his mental illness, but to put homeless and stabbing in the same headline is nothing short of fear-mongering sensationalism.  Here's another example of media-perpetuated stigma involving homeless people:

Homelessness is a CIRCUMSTANCE, not a characteristic.  How many times do we have to explain it to you?  I don't need to point out that the majority of headline-making tragedies involving violence and mental illness involve housed people, do I?  If the person in this story had been housed, the topic might have been more relevant, mentioning perhaps how broken our mental health care system is right now.  I wonder how many times Cory tried to access the health care system, only to find he didn't fit their "criteria?"

As it is, the talk of the town will be "That guy got stabbed by a homeless person."  Is that what the author wanted?  More suffering, more fear, and another excuse to say "those people deserve what they get."

I am writing a letter to the CBC.  I hope you will too.  The link for contacting them is here:

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