Beyond Stigma and Stereotypes: What is Homelessness?

People, Identity & Culture
Homeless and Cold Man Sitting on Bench
Ed Yourdon / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Grade Level:
Middle School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Speaking and Listening
People, Identity & Culture

In November 2014, the National Center on Family Homelessness reported that one child in every thirty—or 2.5 million children in the U.S.—were homeless at some point in 2013. Many advocates blame the country’s high poverty rate on a lack of affordable housing, among other causes. Even though the child homeless rate is at an all-time high, people who are homeless are typically hidden away from the general population and many young people are not aware of the issues of homelessness, unless they are homeless themselves. In addition, there is a lot of misunderstanding by the general public about who is homeless and the causes for homelessness. As a society, we have a stereotypical view of homeless people (e.g. alcoholics, drug addicts, dangerous, mentally ill) and there is a profound stigma around being homeless in the United States. Further, targeted violence against homeless people is a serious national issue.

This middle school lesson provides an opportunity for students to gain an understanding of who is homeless, the reasons people become homeless and the ways in which homeless people are victims of violence and harassment. Students will also explore how, as a society, we stigmatize and stereotype people who are homeless.

More from this Section