Re: Semantics

Tom Boland (
Mon, 13 Apr 1998 12:10:11 -0700 (PDT)

>I find it alarming in the extreme to see how often the words 'homeless'
>and 'mentally ill' appear in the same line whenever the subject of
>homelessness arises for discussion.
>This is frankly only one more form of victim-blaming - homelessness
>isn't a disease; its a political/social issue. Citing 'mental ilness'
>(which is more value judgement than scientific fact in any event) as
>causal removes it from that realm and places the blame solely on the
>victim's shoulders, thus providing the system with a convenient 'out.'
>We can't afford to be doing this.
>-->Graeme Bacque <>

Graeme, I agree.  Victim blaming obscures the systemic causes of homelessness.

The term "mentally ill" is a tool used to justify control of one group by
another.  Those so labeled are not presumed capable of choice or worthy of
basic human rights - including freedom from incarcaration, forced drugging
and electroshock - and from mandatory treatment as a requirement for the
essentials to survive (such as shelter or housing).

On a related theme, I just wrote to a Food Not Bombs volunteer who worried
that it might be dangerous to give car rides to homeless people, some of
whom he characterized as "mentally ill".  I replied:

"It is fair to be cautious with strangers, but not to presume that persons
whom we _class_ as "homeless and mentally ill" are necessarily dangerous.
In fact, the rate of reported violence for persons who've been psychiatric
patients is lower than that for the general poupluation.  And if danger
tracks class, then let us end poverty.

If we must judge, the only fair judgment is person_by_person.--Tom"

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