Part of my role at Faces without Places is to raise awareness and educate the public about issues of homelessness. For many people who live in suburban areas, homelessness may seem far removed from their neighborhood and seem more like an urban issue; however, more and more families are falling out of the middle class and into homelessness all over the city.
Family homelessness is often invisible, meaning, families may not stay in shelter, rather they may "double up" with friends or family or stay in a motel.
I tailor my presentations to the age and dynamics of a class or group; some groups get really involved with the topic and the discussion takes on a life of its own, other groups are less interactive and the presentation turns more into a lecture.
During this particular presentation, the students were very engaged and were working hard to really understand the difficulties a child experiencing homelessness may face.
Some individuals may never have contemplated the issues and causes of homelessness until they heard my presentation. Others know it all too well, as I recently found out.
Nearing the end of one of my presentations, a boy called out to me, thanking me and our organization for helping kids who are homeless. I didn’t really think much of the comment but I did appreciate it.
After the class left, the principal explained to me that the student who thanked me had in fact experienced homelessness the previous school year. Due to reasons I cannot recall, he and his siblings actually lived in a park for several days before receiving help.
The principal went on to explain that their school, on average, has three or four homeless students a year.
Some time had passed before I spoke with the principal again but when I did, he explained to me that the student who had thanked me had been difficult for teachers to work with; however, after my visit it was almost as if a wall had crumbled—the student’s demeanor had drastically changed.
I had always assumed that students would be impacted by what I shared with them—maybe paying more attention to persons experiencing homelessness, or thinking about ways they could help, or sharing information with their family and friends—but I never imagined an impact of this magnitude and am truly humbled by it.