For Educators

Homeless in America – Background


In this lesson plan, elementary students develop an understanding of what it means to be homeless and why people become homeless. Using various resources, including video segments from Religion & Ethics, books, and community guest speakers, students explore different perspectives on the homeless, including the issue of whether or not they should be arrested and taken off the streets. As a culminating activity, students examine different methods of helping the homeless and then select one, which they will carry out.

NOTE: To invite family participation and alert parents/guardians to their children’s possible concerns around the issue of homelessness, a letter can be sent home. A sample letter has been provided; it may be adapted or used as is.

Grade Level:

Grades 3-5, with adaptations for younger children

Time Allotment:

1-2 weeks.

NOTE: This lesson can carry over anywhere from a few days to two weeks, depending on the level of interest and commitment to the topic.

Subject Matter:

This topic offers tie-ins to many curriculum areas: social studies/geography (habitats, ecosystems, economics, social structures); history (settlement and urbanization); science/health (links of homelessness with disease, characteristics of a healthy home environment); mathematics (collecting and tabulating data, understanding statistics); and language arts (interviewing, writing factual and opinion essays, researching and supporting a position).

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the extent of the problem of homelessness in their nation and their community.
  • Name at least three possible reasons why people become homeless.
  • Name at least five ways in which homelessness adversely affects people.
  • Articulate ideas and explore ethical and moral issues related to society’s treatment of the homeless.
  • Identify at least three things that people can do to reduce homelessness and help the homeless.


This lesson was prepared by: Kathleen Cochran, Ed.M.