Conversation Starter: What Is Homelessness?

Around 100 million people are homeless around the world. Learn more about what it means to be homeless, and find ways to help those less fortunate.
Homeless Hungry Young Boy

There is a saying: “A house is made of walls and beams, a home is built of love and dreams.” Does that mean that if you don’t have a house to live in you can still have a home as long as there is love and dreams? Or does it mean that only if there is love and dreams in a house is it truly a home? What if there is neither a house nor love and dreams?

All over the world — in rich and poor countries alike — about 100 million people are homeless, many of them women and children. Homelessness means people don’t have a safe place to sleep. They don’t have a place to keep their belongings, spend time with their families, or feel protected. Often homelessness means people lose touch with family members, friends, or their community; when this happens, dreams of a better life start to fade.

Homeless Person Sleeping on Street

For children, being homeless means there is no cozy bed to be tucked into by their parents. Often it means not even owning their own pajamas. They must sleep in shelters, cars, parks, or empty buildings — sometimes at a different place each night.

It also means they don’t get to learn as much as other children, because they don’t regularly attend school, or can’t do their homework. They may get sick often, and they can’t invite friends for playdates. Their parents — if they are around at all — are often desperate about their own lives and unable to provide their children with the love and care they need. Homelessness is the biggest threat to a human’s dignity.

The reasons people are homeless are mostly related to poverty. Many homeless people can’t find a job or don’t earn enough money to pay for a home. Illness or disabilities may play a role; other times people are displaced by wars or natural disasters.
Escaping homelessness is very difficult without help from others. Governments and organizations provide solutions such as affordable housing, long term shelters, education* programs, career training, and job opportunities. Equally important is what each of us can do: treat homeless people with the same respect as we treat everyone else!

Shower Buses and PJ Drives

People who want to help are launching innovative projects to ease the burden of homelessness. Two examples are old public buses that are remolded into mobile showers, and charity drives to donate pajamas to homeless children.

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The article was first published in the award winning book “33 Things to Talk to Kids about Global Challenges”.