Union Rescue Mission - Language

Kara Powell | Apr 13, 2010

At the Ideation Conference last week I had the chance to see Andy Bales speak. Andy is the CEO of the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, the largest rescue mission of its kind in the country. Before moving to the Union Rescue Mission, Andy was one of the pastors at our church.

As one of the youth leaders, I got to know two of Andys sons. Ill never forget taking a group of 20 middle school kids out to feed folks who were homeless in Pasadena. While most of the middle schoolers were pretty timid in their conversations with folks who were homeless, guess which kid felt immediately comfortable more comfortable than most of our adult leaders? Yup Andy and Bonnies son.

The goal of the Union Rescue Mission is to end Los Angeles embarrassing (according to Andy) claim of being the homeless capital of the world. In his 15 minute talk, Andy made an important point about the language we use to refer to homeless. He said that we should never use the phrase the homeless. Instead, we should refer to folks as people who are experiencing homelessness.

I learned the same important language shift from World Vision, who when we wrote a 30 Hour Famine Curriculum in partnership with them, asked us to not say the poor but say people who are poor or people who are experiencing poverty.

Why is this shift in language so important? First, it reminds us that others are PEOPLE. Second, it doesnt define them completely as folks who are poor or homeless but rather as people who experiencing a (hopefully somewhat temporary) state of poverty or homelessness.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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