Students React ~ Homelessness: Somebody Else’s Life
Maria DePina
teaches English Language Arts at Burke High School.

Students: Grade 9 & 11 English classes
Collaboration with Burke English Language Arts Teacher, Caitlin Bailey
Heifer Project International, Advocate

Classroom Activities
Brainstorm personal observations of or experiences with homelessness
View video Homelessness: Somebody Else’s Life produced by Tufts students
Read Homeless A Resource Guide for Students and Teachers & stories online at Oxfam web site
Invite students to Oxfam Hunger Banquet, an interactive event where 3 student groups react to receiving food portions dependent upon class & income
Research different scenarios for Hunger Banquet
Write essays on Is Having a Home a Right or a Privilege?
Community Activities
Hold round table discussion of students’ perceptions of homelessness
Invite another class to view video
Host Hunger Banquet with input & support of Heifer Project Advocate
Conduct open mike session on Hunger Banquet reflections
Submit essays to student publication
Teacher Reflections
At first, students did not see the importance of learning about homelessness. They felt they knew enough about the problem and considered homeless people drunks etc. All that changed after watching Somebody Else’s Life and reading The Resource Guide. While they were reading the book, they were engrossed. As they read, they became very quiet and really interested in the stories. They realized that people could become homeless because of lost jobs, divorce, or sickness. They realized that anyone could become homeless. This was a shock for them. . . . The Hunger Banquet is an extraordinary experience for anyone reflecting on the realities associated with local and global hunger. Their essays on Is Having a Home a Right or a Privilege? revealed how moved they were.

Student Reflections
One Student: Before the video and the Hunger Banquet, my concept of homelessness was sleeping in the streets on a cold winter night and begging. I guess I was wrong because there is more to being homeless than sleeping on the streets. . . . As I got to read about homelessness and learn its causes, I realized that it’s not just being poor that makes you homeless. It can also mean that you’ve been abused emotionally or physically, or you don’t have a basic education. . . . If I can change anything in the world, I would like to give comfort to homeless people because having a home is everyone’s right.
Another Student: When I was handed bread and water at the Hunger Banquet, I was insulted. I wanted some of the pizza and soda that other people had. I wanted to cry because I felt poor and couldn’t even have a little slice of pizza. Now I fully understand what people mean when they say, “Don’t take things for granted.”

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