Social safety net

Our definition: Social safety nets are systems compromised of personal, community, familial and governmental relationships that a person can rely on during times of need.

Social safety nets should be available to any person who is a member of the relationship they are seeking assistance from. A person becomes a member of the relationship by existing in the larger group.

social justice

Our definition: The concept of making social systems (and social institutions) fair and work for marginalized individuals and communities equal to how they (those same systems) work for those with the majority power.

Social justice is the process of creating equity and fairness in social systems (and institutions) where there was originally a power imbalance between different groups of people, especially as it applies to marginalized and oppressed communities.

third world country

Our definition: This is the concept of a country at a lesser stage in industrial and economic development than other countries. Countries that typically fit into this category are those that have historically (the period of time between 1500 - 1980) been on the receiving end of forced colonization, resulting in a loss of their natural resources and often their independence to outside forces. Countries that have typically been placed in this category also have histories of political instability, civil war and continued disruption and influence from other countries and often have high rates of poverty, including extreme poverty as a result.

We suggest using words such as: under-resourced; post-colonized/post-colonial; when referring to these countries.


Our definition: Poor refers to a monetary concept, of a low amount of money or having no to little money in comparison to the amount of money another person or entity has.

We suggest using terms such as: lower income earner; lower income earning; wage depressed; and income deprived


Our definition: A welfare queen is a person or corporate entity that takes in income (including business revenue) directly from the government to prop them up and to generate excess greed over need, when that assistance isn’t needed. This is often seen in the form of tax cuts and corporate subsidies.

We suggest not using this term with regards to individuals.


Our definition: The lowest amount legally allowed for an employer to pay an employee/worker. This often does not take into account the actual cost of living for the employee to provide for their most basic necessities: housing, food and clothing, at a humane level. A minimum wage is not the same as a living wage.

bootstraps/pull yourself up by your bootstraps

Our definition is that this is a term that paints a false picture of the reality of how people and society operate and does not give credit to the systemic (government), societal and familial help that all of us receive and benefit from. Pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is a fictional idea because it is an impossible task to do because it cannot be done.

We suggest not using the term ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’.


Our definition is homeless is a broad one, that has a focus on the situation and the characterization of the situation rather than a characterization of the person. To us homeless means housing instability resulting in a person (or family) with a living situation that is not a permanent continuous place to reside, that is of their choosing and meets their needs. This includes those who couch surf between family and friends, and/or move from motel to motel and/or sleep in their cars. We also include those who regularly cycle in and out of homeless shelters because they lack the permanence of a home, those living in ‘tent cities’ and college students who once school is on break. This is what homeless is to us and just some of the people directly affected by homelessness.

We suggest using the terms: unhoused, housing instability, or unstable housing.

middle class & middle class values

Our definition: Similar to our definition of poor, we think of middle class only in terms of monetary level of income. There is only a vague definition of what constitutes middle class which is a person or family that earns between $35,500 - $122,000 annually; however we think the term middle class may actually be more of a feeling rather than a definitive value or dollar amount as many people who earn less than $35,000 see themselves as middle class (especially those residing in the southern United States)*.

We don’t have a definition for middle class values because we don’t believe that there are a set of values that can be ascribed to a “class” of people based on their income or profession. We do not agree with the thinking that only or primarily middle class earning people work hard, have self-discipline and ambition and believe in honesty or education, which is what is typically referred to as ‘middle class values’.

We suggest using the term middle class only as it relates to actual earned income levels and to never use the term middle class values as people along all economic levels have those values.

* see the history of this term for more reading on how those with poverty level incomes often refer to themselves as middle class.

food desert

Our definition: A neighborhood or community where residents are unable to access a full grocery store (that includes fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, grains and meats, in addition to canned goods) at an affordable price which includes the acceptance of SNAP and EBT cards. The ability to access a full grocery store includes being able to walk there if it is a “walkable community” or being able to easily access public transportation if private transportation is not available to the person. The term ‘food desert’ is an incomplete description of the situation and only describes the first level of the larger problem of health disparities caused by the lack of access to fresh food.

We prefer the term ‘food mirage’ to ‘food desert’ as often times there are grocery stores in under-served neighborhoods; however, they often lack quality fresh food and have extraordinarily high prices, which still results in the lack of access to fresh and nutritious groceries and food for the community at affordable prices.


Our definition: Ghetto is a term used to identify communities that have been segregated by race, ethnicity or religion by government policies. The term may refer to a community that has become distressed because of government policies. While the term historically has negative connotations, in more recent years (beginning in the 1990s), those who live in government created ghettos, began using term colloquially (slang) in a more positive light. The word still retains the negative connotations when used by those from outside of communities created by these government policies.

We suggest not using the term ghetto in reference to a neighborhood or community based on the perceived or known racial or ethnic make-up or income level of those who reside in that community.

income inequality

Our definition: The gap or disparity between the highest income earners and the lowest income earners, which creates an economic imbalance that may hit tipping points which cannot be sustained in a healthy economy which allows everyone to fully participate.

opportunity gap

Our definition: The Opportunity Gap is the difference in the outcomes that students with a lack of access to current and up to date educational tools, resources and without the access to extra curricular supports including the arts, sports and academic assistance and students who have access to the most current resources and supports. Typically the opportunity gap is seen most prominently in students from lower income earning households, attending schools in high poverty neighborhoods and students of color. The gap primarily is caused by socio-economic factors, public policy and often state and local tax collection as they relate to the funding of schools.

We suggest no longer using the outdated term: ‘academic gap’ as it is does not encompass all of the factors that create and sustain the gap in education.

deserving poor

Our definition: The term Deserving Poor is one that is based on a judgement of the moral character of those who are poor and attempts to determine if they have become poor through acceptable measures. The concept of deserving poor attempts to justify withholding help and assistance to those who are poor, that another person, group or entity does not agree with, and primarily looks at. The use of the term deserving poor centers around blaming a person for being poor for perceived personal moral failings and choices in life, rather than looking at the systemic reasons that may cause a person to be poor, regardless of their personal life choices.

To understand the concept of ‘deserving poor’ and that some people deserve to be helped and others don’t, the idea that some people are undeserving of assistance has to be a simultaneously held position.  

We suggest that the phrase and concept of deserving poor not be used to decide who receives assistance, and not to determine the need of a person. We suggest determining who is in need of assistance and help by looking at financial need, rather than trying to use a personal moral guide to hold others accountable to. The phrase deserving poor should only be used when identifying the causes and why there are gaps in social safety nets.

social exclusion/social marginalization

Our definition: Social exclusion or social marginalization is the process or the result of public policy that results in a specific group of marginalized people purposely excluded from access to resources and opportunities that are available to the majority demographic. Social exclusion or social marginalized can be seen in policies that result in lower income earning individuals or communities having little to no access to resources and opportunities that wealthier communities have.


Our definition: We define gentrification is the process by which a wealthier class of people move into a community or neighborhood that has historically been home (within the preceding decade) to predominately lower income earning residents. Gentrification can be the result of individuals moving into the lower income earning community and changing the income demographics. It can also be the result of planned development by private developers and public (government) policies and programs, and through institutions with leverage and power. Often gentrification happens as a result of individual efforts, private developers and public policy and programs and institutions working together in tangent or separately. Regardless of the reason for gentrification, the result is the same: displacement of lower income earning populations.


Our definition: Poverty is a broad and rather vague term with many different meanings depending on whom you are speaking to. For our organization we define poverty as financial insecurity resulting in a lack of enough money to pay for the basic necessities of life (food, housing/shelter, clothing) and limits the access to education, transportation and employment on a regular basis. Poverty (financial insecurity) itself is seen in six distinct different ways: generational, situational, absolute, relative, urban and rural.


Page 1 - Next Page