Challenges People Face

6, 7, 8

Students reflect on basic needs that may be difficult to meet when one doesn’t have a home. They take action by creating personal hygiene kits or asking a local nonprofit how they can help support their efforts to assist homeless people.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session, Plus time to plan and carry out a service project

The learners will:

  • write about personal routines.
  • brainstorm basic resources not available to people who are homeless.
  • take action through communication of issues, helping with a project, and/or by raising money/collecting items.
  • Optional: Internet access for research
  • Optional: Collected/donated supplies for personal hygiene kits
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.

  • 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

Place the word service on the display board. Have students share their understanding of the word and how it might impact the issues of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. (Definition of service) How can you communicate with others about the issue of homelessness to make a difference? How might you get others to care about and act on this issue?


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask students to write a paragraph or bulleted list describing their morning or evening routine, including the use of clothing, make-up, cleansing products, electric appliances, food-preparation supplies, and rooms in their home. Note: be sensitive to students who may not have the privilege of the supplies for a satisfactory routine. This may be a personal reflection, not shared aloud, but simply to raise awareness of the types of things we may take for granted in our routines.

  2. Ask: What challenges do you think homeless people in a Western culture might face besides not having a place to live?

  3. Brainstorm a list of basic difficulties/challenges for people who are homeless.

  4. The following list for teacher reference is relevant to homeless people in a Western culture, as provided in Wikipedia.

  5. Other basic difficulties include:

    • Personal security, quiet, and privacy, especially for sleeping
    • Safekeeping of bedding, clothing and possessions, which may have to be carried at all times
    • Hygiene and shaving facilities
    • Cleaning and drying clothes
    • Obtaining, preparing and storing food in small quantities
    • Keeping contacts, without a permanent location or mailing address
    • Hostility and legal powers against urban vagrancy.
    • Reduced access to health care and dental services.
    • Limited access to education.
    • Increased risk of suffering from violence and abuse.
    • General rejection or discrimination from other people.
    • Loss of usual relationships with the mainstream
    • Not being seen as suitable for employment.
    • Reduced access to banking services
    • Reduced access to communications technology”
  6. Discuss how the list of challenges might be different in a developing country.

  7. Ask the students how they can find out what basic needs local children and adults who are homeless may have. Encourage them to call a local shelter to ask about needs that they, as a group, may be able to address. The needs may be collectable items (toiletries, socks, blankets) or services (reading to children, babysitting, computer training).

  8. As a group, select a service project based on needs, interests, and talents. Make a plan and carry it out.

Cross Curriculum 

Students make personal hygiene kits to distribute to homeless people. The kits may include items such as deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrush, shampoo, soap, and wet wipes. Many local businesses may be willing to donate supplies or donate money for this project. Ask students to plan and carry out this project. Provide the following guidelines: 1. Contact a local organization to find out the needs. 2. Make a list of needed hygiene items. 3. Make a list of businesses and individuals who might be willing to donate money or items (for example, a local dentist may donate floss or toothbrushes) 4.Students contact contributors and collect supplies over a two-week period. 5. Decorate resealable gallon-size bags (or boxes) that hold each kit. 6. Plan a day to fill the bags or boxes. 7. Deliver the filled kits to the organization that distributes to the homeless clients. Students identify local and global nonprofits that are working to reduce poverty and homelessness. Find out what their needs are and engage the students in fundraising, advocacy (using social media to raise awareness of the issue), or helping with projects locally.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Locate and map civil society organizations in the community.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify different types of communities with which an individual might identify.
  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.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
    4. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Develop a service plan.