"My family and I lived in a motel when I was 13 years old. I have lived experience with hidden homelessness. I understand poverty. I understand the ways in which poor people are stigmatized, marginalized, and how they are systemically oppressed in ways that financially privileged people aren’t.
My thesis is critiquing the way that news media portrays people who are poor. I examine how the language use and belief systems perpetuate stigma to those who have little to no income. By marrying both academic and lived experience knowledge, I have been able to bring a unique perspective that has motivated me to keep going, despite being distressing at times.
I first attended the homeless memorial in November of 2015. I became quite angry with the knowledge that so many people were dying while homeless. These lives end prematurely and often through brutal ways. No one in our affluent country should ever die violently, alone, or hungry. My hope with creating the online memorial is to provide a digital space for those in the community who are grieving. The space is also there to bring awareness to the crisis of homelessness and to provide ways in which people can help.
What I find the most frustrating about the work is the fact that I must do it in the first place. I wish we didn’t have a homeless memorial. I wish no one had to die while homeless. I wish that front line workers, nurses, doctors, volunteers, didn’t have to fight day in and day out for basic human rights. Homelessness is something we created, we know how to fix it, but we choose to place our priorities elsewhere. Prevention strategies, affordable housing, and social support systems, that’s it. I’ll keep working towards that goal for as long as I possibly can."
Rayna Slobodian, student
Masters of Education candidate
Faculty of Education
Photo credit: davidgoldmanphoto.com