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Indybay Feature
Stigmatization of Homelessness
by Monica Toupin (toupin [at]
Monday Nov 22nd, 2021 2:45 PM
An opinion piece about how homeless is seen in society. The collective consciousness can determine how we interact with our community and it's members. Stigma is part of the collective consciousness. Stigma can determine how we decide to address and interact with individuals in our society and community.
By Monica Toupin

Homelessness in Sonoma County, has risen since drastically since the 1980s. Despite the consistency in the public arena that homelessness needs to be addressed, there has not been effective efforts or strategies that have been conducive to overall change.

There are a lot of resources in Sonoma County which includes, programs, outreach, and subsidized housing that has helped a lot over the years, however, we still find ourselves having some of highest rates of homelessness per capita despite being one of the highest grossing counties in California.

There has been a lot of influential individuals on the front lines fighting for the most disadvantaged individuals in our communities across the country. The hard efforts by advocates and grassroots organizations that work alongside the homeless community, face a lot of barriers from gentrification, redlining, inflation, and economic-political legislations that make it seemingly impossible to get ahead of this crisis.

The main barrier that homeless individuals face trumps all other barriers: stigma. The narratives that circulate in social spaces continue to place homeless as “outsiders” and can determine how efforts are organized in the community. Stigma in the HUD Voucher community, mental health, race, and non-violent criminal offenders have been fed to the public through the information or misinformation and the entertainment they consume, thus thwart efforts to help those who are homeless back into the fabric of the community in which they live.

Sociologists, Irving Goffman, suggests that stigma should be recognized as “the language of relationships” and not attributes of a person and that the stigmatized “are not persons but rather perspectives”. Most homeless individuals do not exhibit characteristics of their stigma, rather they are stigmatized because of their social status, age, gender, or race. The macro-level structures that have created and perpetuated the stigmatization of disenfranchised communities need to be addressed at the meso-level. Communities do need to continue to provide the advocacy and voice that homeless individuals need in a coordinated effort to help battle stigmatization.
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