Homelessness in America

Social Justice Learning: early childhood

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, certain people in our society are more likely to find themselves without a place to live. The risk of homelessness is tied to race, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, and mental health. While these conversations can be complex—and often we don’t know where to begin—we believe beginning with our littlest ones can have the most long-term impact, both individually and as a society. We hope you will find the resources below helpful.

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Learning Levels

Early Childhood Adolescent Adult


The Can Man

The Can Man book cover

Tim’s birthday is just a week away, and more than anything he wants a skateboard. But money is tight, and Tim knows his family cannot afford to buy him a board. As Tim ponders how he might earn money for a skateboard, he hears “The Can Man” down the street collecting empty soft drink cans. The clang of the cans in the homeless man’s cart gives Tim an idea. He will collect cans too, and cash them in for the redemption money. By the end of the week, Tim has almost reached his goal—until a couple of chance encounters with The Can Man change everything. Told with honesty and respect, The Can Man by Laura E. Williams is a timely story shines a perceptive light on current social concerns.


EXTRA CREDIT: Molly and her mom don't always have enough food, so one Saturday they visit their local food pantry. Molly's happy to get food to eat until she sees her classmate Caitlin, who's embarrassed to be at the food pantry. Can Molly help Caitlin realize that everyone needs help sometimes? Find out in Saturday at the Food Pantry by Diane O’Neill.




Lily comes to Sesame Street

Lily, the hot pink puppet with red hair, is the first character to be homeless on Sesame Street. She was first introduced to the hit PBS KIDS series in 2011, where she explained that her family was experiencing food insecurity – they didn't have enough to eat – and needed to come stay with friends on Sesame Street for a while. In this clip, Lily is reminded that even in the toughest of times, being surrounded by a circle of care can help her cope.


EXTRA CREDIT: Sesame Street recently introduced a new character named Karli – a young Muppet in foster care – and her “for-now” parents, Dalia and Clem. In this clip, Elmo visits Karli and learns more about her situation and what "for now" parents means.



The Village That Didn’t Share

A logo with a dragon and a girl reading, text says stories podcast

Fiction podcasts are a growing genre — and for good reason. Shows like Stories Podcast by Wondery are perfect for bedtime. In this episode of Stories Podcast, "The Village That Didn’t Share" we find out what happens when Jon and Maria visit a village that doesn't share. Listen along as we explore a fun story about the importance of community.