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Season for Humane Service

Topic: Homelessness in Your Community

Getting Informed

Homelessness. We are confronted with it everyday. We see them on the street corner while we're waiting for the light to change, on the subway on the way to work, in a Starbucks or outside of the grocery store. There are over 600,000 Americans without a place to go home to tonight. You may be surprised to find out that about 18% of these are the people we see on the street everyday, the chronically homeless. Who are the other 82%? Families, youth, veterans, and individuals who are going through tough times.

More Facts from National Alliance to End Homelessness

• How many of the homeless are children? One out of 50—or about 1.5 million—American children are homeless each year

• What is chronic homelessness? A person who is "chronically homeless" is an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition (e.g., substance abuse, serious mental illness, developmental disability, or chronic physical illness) who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

• For persons in families, the three most commonly cited causes of homelessness are:
Lack of affordable housing, Poverty, and Unemployment

• For singles, the three most commonly cited causes of homelessness are:
Substance abuse, Lack of affordable housing, Mental illness

Watch the video below by a transitional housing organization in San Diego: Solutions for Change

For documentary films, see "Inocente" and "Dark Days"

More excellent information can be found at the following websites:
National Center on Family Homelessness
Beyond Shelter
Homelessness Resource Center

Or take a free self-guided online course to learn more about homelessness and strategies to overcome it:


Dialogue Starters

1. What are some images or thoughts that come up when you think of homelessness? How many of these include children or families?

2. What might some of the causes of homeless be for these specific populations?
• Families
• Veterans
• Youth
• Physically or mentally disabled

3. Do you see a relationship between homelessness and substance abuse?

4. Why do you think that there is such a stigma attached to the state of being homeless? Why is it so difficult to get past the us vs. them mentality?

5. Imagine a family living in a transitional housing shelter. Put yourself in the shoes of the parent, who is faced with finding employment, housing, and providing for their child. What kind of assistance would mean the most to that parent?

6. Now put yourself in the shoes of a homeless child, being taken in and out of school, moving from shelter to shelter. What would make a difference to that child?

7. Brainstorm some actions that could be taken to prevent homelessness in your community.


Suggested Actions

Donate clothes, household goods or other items to a shelter.
Volunteer at a shelter or transitional home.
Offer professional skills directly or assist in job training

Small Group/ Task Force
Invite people experiencing homelessness to a community event.
Hold a Compassion Dinner
Organize an event at a shelter
Have a community film night and show a documentary on homelessness.

Large Group/ Organizational Level
Organize a “Faces of Homelessness” panel to dispel stereotypes, inspire involvement, and serve as a training, skill building, and empowerment tool.
Help build or fix up houses or shelters.
Sponsor a Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week
Organize a program for children experiencing homelessness
Coordinate and participate in a Sleep Out or 24 Hour Fast

For a full list of ideas, see: http://www.nationalhomeless.org/want_to_help/index.html#r