Poverty: ‘unacceptable’

'Unacceptable' campaign sends wrong message to those impoverished, says Radical Health Alliance.

The Radical Health Alliance believes “Unacceptable” messages are those that people pass by without consideration every day (see above) as opposed to the Coalition To End Homelessness’ campaign, which the group suggests further stigmatizes homeless people.

You’ve seen the uncomfortable images around town on buses, shelters and malls since Feb. 13: “Unacceptable. How did you sleep last night?” But while the message sends a retort deep into your guilty conscience, one group says the campaign has missed the mark entirely.

The Radical Health Alliance has launched its “Jam Unacceptable” initiative in response to The Coalition To End Homelessness’ “Unacceptable” poster and social media campaign. While it may be well-intentioned, the alliance says the coalition missed an opportunity to de-stigmatize those living in poverty.

Instead, the original campaign adds to the stigmatization through stereotypical imagery of the group they intend to assist.

“The coalition’s campaign reinforces mainstream understandings of how to conduct one’s self politically,” says Seb Bonet, alliance member. “We’re not looking to have a fight with the coalition — our goal is to take widely accepted images and twist them in a way that complicates the message and looks at it another way … that’s ‘culture jamming.’”

Just to show the contrast, the alliance took Victoria-specific images of privilege — like the opulent Uplands neighbourhood sign — and added the tag line: “Unacceptable. Housing for all, not mansions for some.”

The alliance, which formed through the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG), is a collective of front-line service workers, researchers, activists, students and other community members. The group has a continued mission to illuminate the root thinking that perpetuates poverty.

The coalition was unable to comment by press time.

“We must stop fixing our gaze on those who are homeless when talking about fixing these issues,” Bonet says. “Let’s turn our gaze on the privilege of Victoria and see the ongoing criminalization of those in poverty.”

To see more, visit radicalhealthalliance.wordpress.com/projects/unacceptable. M

— With files from Colin Cayer

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