Building a Shelter

Grades: 
6, 7, 8
Students construct a simple shelter to gain a sense of empathy for the situation of people who are homeless. They define and learn facts about homelessness. 
Lesson Rating 
0
Duration 
PrintOne 45-Minute Session
Objectives 

The learners will:

  • state a definition and describe homelessness in the U.S.
  • give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
Materials 
  • large shelter-building supplies, such as big boxes, blankets, and pieces of plastic/tarp
  • Optional: Internet access for research
  • handout is for educator reference
Teacher Preparation 
Note: Be sensitive to the personal experience of the students. Some may be currently homeless. The lesson may generate discussion that may make them feel uncomfortable, or it may provide the empathy to allow them to discuss the issue in a safe environment.
A day in advance, you may ask students to bring in some of the items to use for building structures. Make it clear that they should be recycled items, not items purchased for this. 
Vocabulary 
  • homelessness: condition and social category of people without a regular house or dwelling because they cannot afford, do not desire, or are otherwise unable to maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing, or lack "fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence."
  • service: contribution to the welfare of others
  • philanthropy: giving time, talent and/or treasure and taking action for the common good

Instructions

Print
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Tell students, "Each year 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness." Children are overrepresented and make up 35% of people who are homeless but only 24% of the population as a whole. Two of the main reasons for homelessness are home foreclosures and poverty. These facts are taken from the National Coalition for the Homeless.

  2. Bring in some supplies for making simple shelters, such as big boxes, blankets, and pieces of plastic. Move students into small groups and tell them they may use supplies found in the classroom (including desks and tables) to create a shelter that will cover their group. The shelter should be constructed to protect them from wind and rain if they were outside. Give them time to construct and sit in their shelter. While they are in the shelters, have them discuss what supplies a homeless person might find in their community if they needed to build a shelter outside.

  3. Bring the group back together and have each group demonstrate their shelter and share their thoughts about how homeless people in their community would survive.

  4. Ask the young people where they believe homeless people live. Listen to a variety of answers, encouraging them to express their perceptions and misconceptions. Lead the discussion to include people locally and globally. What does homelessness look like?

  5. Tell students that homelessness and poverty are closely linked. When people do not have enough money to pay for shelter, clothing, food, and other necessities, shelter may be the first thing to go because it is the most expensive. In some cases, a major illness, accident, orseries of missed paychecks may cause people to lose their homes.

  6. Work together to form a definition of homelessness. (The HUD definition of homeless “is the condition and social category of people without a regular house or dwelling because they cannot afford, do not desire, or are otherwise unable to maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing, or lack fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.")

  7. Explain that this is the definition for the U.S., but different countries have different definitions of homelessness. Discuss why the definitions might be different.

  8. Discuss how government, businesses, families, and nonprofits address the issue of homelessness. The government provides funds to assist people who are homeless through HUD. Nonprofits, such as local shelters providebeds and food for people and help find jobs and low-income housing. Businesses and familiessupport nonprofits and donate funds and time.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.