Putting the PERSON First





These negative phrases put the condition a person is experiencing first and makes it their full identity.

“The words we use to describe people powerfully affect our attitudes and assumptions about them.” said Jennifer L. Rich with the United States Council on Homelessness.

For example, imagine describing someone who is living in their car as a “homeless person” versus a “person experiencing homelessness”. By putting the situation or condition the person is experiencing first, we shrink their entire identity to one word-- homeless.

It's highly likely this individual is someone’s father, a trusted friend, and a model employee who isn’t making a living wage. He has made the difficult choice to sleep in his car. The label makes the situation feel permanent, rather than the temporary situation of being without a home.

When the issue of homelessness is perceived as permanent, it also is perceived as unfixable.

We know our words hold great power.

How we talk about our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and the community we serve matters.

United Way of Treasure Valley works alongside amazing nonprofit organizations, local government leaders, and schools that empower our community by putting people first. This allows them to work to address the root issues that create health disparities and then solve them.

Our challenge to you, our reader, donor, and/or volunteer is to think about using person-first language in your daily life. See how it changes how you talk, think, and view your community.

Together, we can create lasting change.