Homelessness in America

Social Justice Learning: adolescent

Today's Lesson: Homelessness in America

Current estimates indicate more than half a million people are experiencing homelessness in America, and a staggering portion of that includes families with children. These individuals live in every state and territory and reflect the diversity of this country; however, the risk of homelessness is tied to race, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, and mental health. These conversations can be difficult to start, and often are focused on either talking to very young children, or how to educate ourselves as adults. But social justice learning is a life-long journey, and one that is just as important for those in the in between age categories, AKA adolescents. Below you will find educational resources specifically geared toward school-aged children.

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Learning Levels

Early Childhood Adolescent Adult


Lives Turned Upside Down

Crenshaw book cover

Lives Turned Upside Down by Jim Hubbard is a powerful photo essay that provides an emotionally powerful, personal view of an issue that affects us all. In it, four children use their own photos and heartfelt narration to share what it’s like to be homeless in this touching collection of words and photographs. Hubbard, founder of Shooting Back, an education and media center that enables homeless children to learn photographic skills and document their world, chose four children from various parts of the country with differing views of what it means to be homeless. 


EXTRA CREDIT: Health of The Homeless’ is a Registered Student Organization at the University of Illinois, and their mission is to provide basic mental/physical health and hygiene necessities to those that cannot do it themselves. In this article, president and founder Hannah, vice president Janina, and volunteer coordinator David discuss community outreach, their favorite experiences as part of the organization, and why advocacy is central to their world views.



Generation Grit: Youth Homelessness

The tent communities you see around Colorado are barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to homelessness. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, over 580,000 people are actively experiencing homelessness on any given night. 18% of them are youth. The host of Generation Grit from PBS 12, Elle Naef, chats with youth representatives from The Place to learn more. You can also watch this episode on the PBS Video app.


EXTRA CREDIT: In this program from Twin Cities PBS, we hear stories from Minnesota youth who have dealt with homelessness. The issues and the struggles, but above all, the resiliency and strength of these teens. Watch it now with the PBS Video app.



The Long Way Home

Shakira Crawford, 39, and her three kids, ages 8 to 13
Shakira Crawford, 39, and her three kids, ages 8 to 13. Photo credit: WNYC

WNYC's The Long Way Home four-part podcast series follows one family as it negotiates its way through New York City’s multi-million dollar anti-homelessness program. In the first episode, we meet Shakira Crawford, 39, and her three kids, ages 8 to 13. She emigrated from Jamaica as a child, became a U.S. citizen in New York, and graduated from high school in the Bronx. She now works full-time at a Manhattan hotel earning just $17,000 a year. She’s a survivor of domestic violence. She loves to laugh. And she's homeless.