Teaching children about homelessness

When, why and how should you tell your children about homelessness? As parents we tend to try and protect our children from things which may scare them. But it’s impossible to hide homelessness. It’s very visible on our streets, and children are naturally very observant and inquisitive. Children are also born with a desire to help others and so, having an honest conversation with them about homelessness and its causes can help nurture their socially responsible sides. And the earlier you speak to them, the more likely they are to spread the word amongst their friends, which is how we create a more socially responsible society.

How to get started

It’s often hard to know how to approach the subject. The best way to start, may be to consider your own views. What do you think about homelessness? What do you feel some of the causes are? What help is available and how can you help? It may also be helpful to learn more yourself around the subject of homelessness. What are the latest statistics? How can you dispel some of the myths around homelessness? It’s also important to point out the many different forms of homelessness and that anyone can find themselves homeless at any point in their lives, for a huge variety of reasons.

Wait for the right moment

In terms of timing, a good place to start would be when your child sees someone who is homeless, or hears about homelessness in the news. They may hear their friends talking about homelessness or maybe they will see something in a book they are reading. 

Need some help?

There are so many resources out there to help parents approach the subject of homelessness. Crisis has a dedicated web page of activities and resources, which you can find here: https://www.crisis.org.uk/get-involved/resources-for-young-people/. Shelter also has a heap of teaching resources on their website and you can explore our own website for lots of facts and statistics and real stories.

Good Reads

And there are many books out there which will help explain homelessness and its effects. As International Children’s Book Day is this week, we have selected a few of our favourites here to get you started.

Sofa Surfer by Malcolm Duffy

With the tagline ‘When going home isn’t an option’, this book empathetically tackles teenage homelessness. Demonstrating how easily young people can slip under the radar and lose the safety net of home. This book shows how action can help those without a home to go to and is warm and rewarding.

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen

Although this is a story about poverty and homelessness, it will leave readers reassured about the strength of the human spirit. A beautiful story about a boy living with his mother in a van and his struggles as he tries to hide this fact from his friends. 

Night Bus Hero by Onjali Q Rauf

A story taking a different angle about a boy who plays a prank on a homeless person and is then educated about the causes and reality of homelessness. It explores themes of bullying and homelessness and the potential everyone has to change for the good.

Four Feet Under by Tamsen Courtenay

Something more appropriate for the parents, this is a touching and insightful look at life on London’s streets. The author spent two months speaking to people who feel they are invisible. She chronicles their lives and listens to their stories as they explain the events which brought them to the lives they lead now. The author claims this experience changed her life forever as the people she met became her heroes.

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