Halloween is an exciting time of year for those who celebrate it, but it’s important to keep in mind what message you’re sending with your costume.
In recent years, many marginalized groups have pushed back against people who dress up as their culture for the holiday. A group of Ohio University students created a poster campaign titled We’re a Culture, Not a Costume, which displayed students of color presenting images of people using their race or culture as a costume. This impactful series went viral online and continues to be shared every October.
Dressing up as any marginalized group is harmful, and one costume seems to be a perennial last-minute favorite – the homeless hobo.
You probably can imagine the hobo caricature with ragged clothes and all his belongings tied up in a handkerchief on the top of a stick he slings over his shoulder while he thumbs for a ride. Sound familiar? Historically, hobos were men without homes who would ride trains from city to city looking for work. Once the railroad industry was overshadowed by automobiles, the hobo caricature faded into history, but homelessness didn’t end there.
Consider those who are still experiencing homelessness. They might have the same descriptors: a person wearing old clothes, belongings stuffed in a trash bag, standing at an intersection with a sign asking for help. Although the imagery has changed, the need to preserve the dignity of our vulnerable neighbors remains the same.
This Halloween, please don’t dress up like a person experiencing homelessness. It’s unthinkable that anyone would dress up as someone experiencing domestic violence or as a child in extreme poverty. So please respect our clients’ humanity as you plan your Halloween costume this year.
Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH) is a non-profit with the mission to provide solutions in Montgomery County to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief, and nonrecurring. Learn more about MCCH.