Homeism: Naming discrimination against the homeless

June 22, 2020

Canham, SL & Humphries, J. (2020, June). Homeism: Naming discrimination against the homeless [paper presentation]. 26th Conference of the International Association of People – Environment Studies [virtual].  


Though systemic issues, rather than personal defects, are at the root of housing insecurity, the latter is often emphasized. Moreover, there has been little acknowledgment of the distinct forms of stigma and discrimination experienced by people based on their lack of housing or their tenure in specific housing locations. While research has explored racialized and gendered experiences of discrimination that result in housing inequality, qualitative data collected from a study on the health needs of persons experiencing homelessness provide evidence of the distinct forms of discrimination experienced by people who lack housing or reside in marginalized neighborhoods. Based on data from 40 in-depth interviews with providers and persons with lived experience of homelessness in Metro Vancouver, BC, this paper defines “Homeism” as the prejudice or discrimination towards an individual based on their housing status or lack thereof. Data suggest that the stigma of housing insecurity and homelessness influences access to health and housing supports and serves as a barrier to systems of care. While our data will highlight examples of homeism experienced by persons living in a shelter or on the street, this term can also be extended to anyone who experiences stigma or discrimination based on their housing. By naming homeism, we aim to instigate housing activism, which recognizes housing as a human right and counteracts the neoliberal ‘not in my backyard’ mentality. As well, by naming the discrimination against persons experiencing homelessness, future scholarship on this phenomenon can be pursued alongside interventions aimed at eliminating homeism.


Discrimination, stigma, prejudice, homelessness, activism