Homeless Artists Explore How Society Defines Poverty


A picture of a dictionary.

Poor (poor)

• When using these phrases — who is poor or what is poor — word pictures come to mind. These pictures imply that someone is less-than. They imply that the person perhaps is not like “us.” There is very little humility in using those words to define others. If there were, would we continue to use those phrases? You must ask yourself how a word is defined.

• Who determines how a word is used? Who made these decisions to tie a word to income and the status of an individual?

• Phrases such as “below the poverty level” partially define what it means to be poor. But again we run into a question: what is the definition of “poverty?”

• Perhaps one can be poor in a spiritual sense because he or she is experiencing sadness or some other mental state.

• Another definition of poverty is being without the means to physically change one’s environment, among other things. Being poor describes someone who is unfed or poorly clothed.

• Society is formed by the language it uses. We need to rethink the use of the words “poor” and “poverty.” Or, we could stop using them altogether. That might help us to relate more positively to those in less fortunate situations. We should think in terms of human rights and housing as a structure to live in and grow in all ways.

Reginald Black

  • I’m homeless, but I don’t consider myself poor. In contrast, I consider myself rich in spirit.

Leonard Hyater


Homeless (home • less)

  • Anyone who does not have a lease to their name.
  • “Without a home.” Some people that are homeless sleep in the park – but that makes being “without a home” debatable because the park is their home. They consider themselves at home in the park.
  • I was not without a home when I was underneath the steps. The definition of homeless to me would actually vary from the individual’s perceptions: one’s perception is their reality.

Robert Williams

  • According to HUD, living in a place considered not fit for human habitation, such as the outdoors, transitional housing or a shelter.
  • A situation where you don’t have an overnight residence such as a motel or a couch.
  • Experiencing an abusive relationship.
  • Children in unstable environments.
  • Basically, to be classified as homeless means you qualify for housing benefits.

Jeffery McNeil

  • In an abusive relationship and trying to get out of it.
  • A person who has no basic living space.

Jennifer McLauglin

  • A person who is going through a temporary period of not being housed.

James Davis

  • People think of someone who is homeless as someone who goes around shaggy and dirty. Homelessness can happen to anybody. I just try to motivate myself to get out of it.

Leonard Hyater

Compilation of illustrations showing the chaos, stress and judgement faced on the streets.
Compilation of illustrations by Dwight Harris, Michelle Modica, Latishia Graham, and Sasha Williams.

Issues |Abuse|Domestic Violence|Environment|Housing|Lifestyle|Youth

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.