Capitol Strives to Define “Homeless”

NYTimes, 15 September, 2008

So the heated discussion of choice a few days ago in our nation’s capital was apparently how to define ‘homeless‘. For the last 20+ years, ‘homeless‘ meant “only people living on the streets or in shelters”. But given the high-and-getting-higher foreclosure and unemployment rates, the Hill is arguing whether or not to expand that definition.

New expansions of the existing definition under consideration are:

1) to include the ‘precariously housed’ (living with friends, couch-to-couch, day-to-day hotels, etc)

2) just to include the smaller number of people who have fled due to domestic violence

3) to include “only those forced to move three times in one year or twice in 21 days”

(Obviously we have some variance in specificity here.)

The definition is important because whoever qualifies as ‘homeless‘ is eligible for aid, shelter and housing assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That said, in a typical DC move, none of the bills have anything about increasing funding.  The current budget ($1.7MM) can’t come close to providing enough/adequate resources for the people falling under the current definition of ‘homeless‘.  So while expanding the definition seemingly demonstrates homeland concern and goodwill, instead of a semantic debate, they should be talking about actions/solutions to actually care for these people.

(And of course it is turning into a Democrat/Republican flame war.  I would paraphrase but you know the drill…)

Two additional thoughts:

  • I think I may have lived couch to couch at some point in my younger younger years.  That definition might need some fine tuning to avoid dealing in every 22 year old in the country.
  • I don’t miss DC at all.

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Creating A New Word/Category to Get It Just Right…

Contributing to our expanding vocabulary
Times-Herald, Malcolm Donahoo (great name)

Here’s a meta-post demonstrating the way in which our vocabularies can grow and expand to help us categorize things (when existing options just don’t seem to cut it)…and then can potentially lead to new definitions, categories or mean insults in the mainstream.

To summarize, Donahoo apparently recently wrote a column (which suspiciously, I can’t seem to find) about Monica Lewinsky and struggled to find a word that could truly encapsulate and convey her Monica Lewinsky-ness…to find a category that could do her justice. In an ah-ha moment, he came up with “pudgemuffin” which he realized very quickly, was not in fact a word, but it was so perfectly fitting to him that he used it anyway, figuring one of the multi-layers of editors would scream at it. No one did so it went to press. And then, shockingly, no one responded…no comments, no hate emails, nothing. His conclusion was not that no one was reading (shocking), but that the new term/category fit so well, it just went unnoticed.

Just a fun 202 in the news…

NOTE – this is reflecting the author’s views only.  Sorry if this offends anyone.

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Redefining the Kilogram

Who knew that the kilogram was defined by a piece of platinum-iridium stored in a vault in France? Well, not me. I just took for granted that a kilogram was 1kg on a scale and never thought about the core of the definition. Apparently “Le Grand K” has been losing weight and now scientists are looking for a more constant and accurate way to define the kilogram, such as counting the number of atoms in a silicon crystal (duh). They claim that the kilogram as we know it will remain the same (don’t panic!), it is just the definition that is changing to ensure more accuracy.


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