Polk County in central Florida now has a record number of students enrolled who are homeless. This is likely true of many school districts throughout the nation thanks to high unemployment and the large number of home foreclosures. The chances are pretty good then that if you have a child in public school, he/she knows someone who is homeless.
Polk County Schools has distributed an activity book to help kids understand homelessness. It's a very thoughtful booklet that helps students get in touch with their own feelings and explore how they might feel if they were without a home to live in. This is an important step in helping them to learn to empathize with others.
After exploring how they might feel if they were homeless, have your child think about the many reasons that could lead to someone being homeless. Through understanding that loss of a job, death or illness of a parent, or any number of reasons that might happen to anyone could lead to losing a home, helps your child to not be judgemental or see that child as "bad" or a "loser."
Finally, have your child think about the ways he can help a homeless student. Being a friend, playing with the person, and including him in activities are some ways. Also, the homeless child is more than just "homeless." He is still a child, a student, a friend, and still has the same feelings, wishes and desires as he always had. It is important to not think of someone just as "homeless."
Of course there are many other things one can do on a larger scale. Donating food to a shelter, writing letters to local newspapers and to congress calling attention to the plight of the homeless are a few examples.
Helping our children to grow up with empathy towards others and an interest in resolving social problems is the right thing to do.