Homeless | Public libraries | Public service | Library trainingMarch 6, 2017 by Jared Oates
If you work regularly with homeless patrons, you've likely encountered uncomfortable situations where communication seems to fail despite your best efforts. This article describes three common mistakes that can turn a merely uncomfortable situation volatile: "parenting" a patron, waiting, and worrying about gender. The advice here comes from Ryan Dowd, a man with decades of experience serving and working with the homeless. This article defines those three mistakes and offers guidelines to counteract them to help you diffuse, rather than escalate, tense situations.
"Parenting," in this context is about a voice register that is used to communicate with someone of a lower social status than the speaker. A "parent" voice presumes the authoritative position of the speaker and is characterized by judgemental statements. It is also usually accompanied by a tone of voice that may be condescending, clipped, or artificially sweet.