Doyle: A heart for the homeless

Community voice

In DuPage County, it can be hard to teach our kids about homelessness in the suburbs—especially when the face of homelessness has changed so much over the years. At Bridge Communities, this is a reality we face every day. How do we explain what homelessness truly means, and what kind of impact it makes on our kids, and on our community? More importantly, how do we answer the question, “Why?”

Bridge saw this need, and created the “What’s It Like To Be Homeless?” curriculum as a way to teach kids about homelessness in a meaningful way. The activities we suggest are geared toward school-aged children, and are appropriate to teach in schools, religious and youth groups, scout troops and more. There is a variety of activities that the groups can perform, based on the age of the kids, including:

First to third grades:

• Purchase or borrow from the library either of the books, “Cooper's Tale” or “Fly Away Home,” and use the discussion questions to explore why and how families become homeless.

• Identify an organization in your local area that serves the homeless. Choose and complete a service project that helps its clients.

• Complete the activity “What Would You Take?”

Fourth to 12th grades:

• Using the questions, explore together as a group the reasons why families become homeless and why homelessness is harmful to children.

• Complete the activity “Calculate It!”

• Visit a homeless shelter or the offices of an agency that serves the homeless to learn more about this issue in your local community.  Students can research and develop their own project that serves the homeless.

In addition to benefiting from taking part in these experiences, kids can earn scout patches as well. After completing the activities from “What’s It Like To Be Homeless?” troop leaders can order Bridge’s “A Heart for the Homeless” scout patches for $2 apiece from www.bridgecommunities.org.

We hope these activities can answer some of the tough questions your kids may have about poverty and homelessness, and help them keep the homeless in their hearts.

Lisa Doyle is the communications and donor relations manager for Bridge Communities.