An interesting piece of social work jargon

Apparently, among organizations and people who work with homeless people, "consumer" is a common term for the people being served. I found this out in the context of people in my Community Participation class discussing their term projects as "looking at ways to get consumers involved in their community."

This seems odd to me, and not just because I know plenty to whom "consumer" is a perjorative term. In general, it seems that a "consumer" is a fairly passive actor in a system. If you're trying to get people involved in their community and participating actively in the systems that affect them, shouldn't you be avoiding terminology that connotates receiving, using, uh, consuming services that others are providing? It seems like the question could be rephrased as, "How can consumers be turned into more than consumers?", in which case some critique of the current term ought to be included.