Thursday, August 20, 2009

Patron, Guest, Denizen!? Which are we to the staff or proprietors of Loaves & Fishes's facilities?

Definitions of words used to describe users of Loaves & Fishes's services.
definition merriam-webster
guest a person who receives the hospitality of a club, a city, or the like; a person who patronizes a hotel, restaurant, etc., for the lodging, food, or entertainment it provides. a person to whom hospitality is extended;a person who pays for the services of an establishment (as a hotel or restaurant)
patron a person who is a customer, client, or paying guest, esp. a regular one, of a store, hotel, or the like. one who buys the goods or uses the services offered especially by an establishment
denizen a person who regularly frequents a place; habitué: the denizens of a local bar. one that frequents a place

People who regularly use services that Loaves & Fishes provides come to be aware that they are referred to as "guests" on signage and from the mouths of staff.

I have noticed that in the class-action complaint that attorney Mark Merin submitted two years ago, regarding the police confiscation of Sacramento homeless people's property, Anthony Lehr, et al. vs. City of Sacramento, et al., the users of Loaves & Fishes services are referred to as "patrons."

In this blog, I insist, perhaps eccentrically, on calling users of Loaves & Fishes' services "denizens."

Which word is most correct to use in light of what homeless people do at Loaves?

I think Loaves is insistent in their use of "guest" in paperwork and on signage to make known the circumstance that anyone using the facility or services does so without acquiring any 'right' to any services or to even be on the premises. Homeless people may be refused services at any time without the staff needing to justify their actions. Signage in front of L&F's Friendship Park reads (something like): "Private Property: Person's can be refused access to the park without notice."

"Patron" is much more of a respectful word than "guest." It implies that the person is paying for services or otherwise supporting the institution with whom he associates. From the definitions provided at, "patron" does not fit as a word to describe users of L&F's services; but by merriam-webster's definition it's fully appropriate: "uses the services offered." In any case, the relationship is symbiotic: both the establishment and the person associating him/herself with the establishment mutually benefit and need one-another.

"Guest," albeit a wholly polite word, highlights the idea that you have no rights here; this establishment is apart from you. "Patron," contrariwise, connotes interdependence. With both "guest" and "patron" the transaction mode between the establishment and its visitor is the core of what the word highlights.

A "denizen" is just a guy who shows up frequently. The word doesn't focus on the mode of transaction; it's disassociated from all the legalisms. But all users of an establishment's services aren't denizens, of course. New users of services, or infrequent users, aren't denizens.

Do users of Loaves & Fishes services "pay" for the services they receive in any sense? I would say absolutely, yes! Loaves & Fishes exists fully because of private donations it solicits. Donors fund the non-profit to aid the homeless; Loaves & Fishes highlights and often exaggerates the misfortunes of the homeless to heighten donations. Loaves & Fishes, then, is a conduit of the charitable feeling of the good-hearted community's businesses and individuals. L&F administers a program the community funds. Without the homeless, Loaves & Fishes would dry up, wither away and its staff would have to go out and find real jobs.

Is "guest," then, an appropriate word to use to describe users of L&F's services? Not really. But it is understandable that Loaves & Fishes management chooses to use that term: Many homeless people can be disruptive from time to time and management is properly determined to maintain order.

Is "denizen" an appropriate word to describe users of L&F's services? Yes, for the purposes of this blog. Usually, in referring to persons at the L&F facility I am necessarily thinking of acclimated, knowledgable users of the services.

Is this the most important blogpost that has ever appeared in this blog!? OK, maybe not.

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Blogger KINGRPG said...

I like this Blog

August 20, 2009 at 6:09 PM  

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