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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 1, September 2007

Homelessness Action Week

October 15—21, 2007

People who are homeless are a visible and tragic presence in most Canadian cities and towns. Their increasing numbers can make homelessness seem like a problem that can’t be solved. But both in Canada and around the world, solutions are possible and concerted efforts to get people into safe, stable, and supportive housing are paying off.

October 15 to 21 is Homelessness Action Week. The majority of municipalities in the Lower Mainland, as well as in Nelson, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Victoria, Kamloops, Prince George, and Prince Rupert are preparing to participate. Depending on the community, there will be events and activities including open houses, panel discussions, and information displays. In addition, there will be special efforts made to reach out to people who are homeless and connect them to local services.

Last October, many of the same municipalities held a similarly focused week; during the week and in the weeks following, a number of elementary school teachers in Vancouver invited Homelessness Awareness Week organizers into their classrooms to talk about homelessness. An on-line video game called Homelessness—It’s No Game helped students gain a sense of the kinds of daily challenges faced by people who are homeless. Feedback from the game and classroom discussions was very positive and sparked an interest in creating a more general guide for teachers about homelessness.

The result is A Teacher’s Guide to Homelessness containing background material, a lesson plan, and a broad array of activities. Grades 6 and 7 classrooms are the focus of the guide. This is due in part to the clear linkages to the Ministry of Education’s prescribed learning outcomes for both social studies and health and career, and in part because the video game works well for that age group. Other activities in the guide include art projects, math exercises, music, writing projects, novel study, health, and wellness. Teachers in other grades may also find elements of the guide useful for their classrooms.

The materials and activities in the teacher’s guide are the product of a collaborative effort by representatives from the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness, the BCTF, the Social Planning and Research Council of BC, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. The guide is available as a free download on the web site stophomelessness.ca. The web site also has a link to Homelessness—It’s No Game under the "Learn More—Research" tab.

More information about Homelessness Action Week including a calendar of events can be viewed at www.stophomelessness.ca.

"The students in the two Grade 7 classes at our school were very eager to talk about homelessness. They were full of questions and ideas about why people are homeless and what should be done about it. The boys particularly enjoyed the video game and found it a useful way to explore some aspects of what daily life can be like for a person who is homeless. The game certainly did a good job of dispelling any idea that it might be fun to live on the street." – Julia Clarke, Mount Pleasant Elementary School, Vancouver

"After learning about homelessness, my class of Grades 4 to 6 were inspired to lead a sock drive for the entire school. They collected more than 500 pairs of socks and delivered them to a health agency serving people who are homeless. They received a lovely note of thanks and were very proud to know they were doing something that was really appreciated." – Sharon Ghuman, Tyee Elementary School, Vancouver

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