Talking to Your Kids About Homelessness? We Can Help

letter written by third grader asking questions about homelessness.

What do you say to your kids when they ask about homelessness or poverty?  The conversation may come up because your child is making cookies for a church’s hypothermia prevention shelter, or collecting food or clothing as part of a scouting program. Or they may see someone sleeping on a bench or know a student at school who lives in an emergency shelter.

It often can be a difficult conversation. We offer some resources to help you to be prepared for when the questions come up or if you want to start the conversation. The note at the top and the quotes below are from Fairfax County third grade students following a discussion about homelessness.

 

Books: A Good Place to Start
“I felt sad…that people sleep in cold weather or on a bench, in the woods and in cars.”Sophia

Our Library is a great resource to find books to read to your child, or have them read to learn about homelessness or poverty in ways that are age appropriate. Our youth materials staff have compiled a list of suggested titles to get you started:

  • The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  • One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman
  • Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
  • On Our Street: Our First Talk about Poverty by Jillian Roberts and Jaime Casap (publishing Feb. 13)
  • Taking Action Against Homelessness by Kaye Stearman
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  • Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt

Find More Books

 

Be Informed About Homelessness 
“I didn’t know that there were so many homeless people in Fairfax County.” Franco

If your child asks, do you know how many people are homeless in our county, or that many people who are homeless have jobs?

On one designated night every January, local jurisdictions, including our county, count our number of people who are homeless. Called the Point in Time Count, it provides us with a good understanding of our neighbors who are homeless. This is information from our Point In Time Count last Jan. 25. We had the 2018 count on Jan. 24 and will have the updated information by early spring.

  • There were 964 people who were literally homeless in the Fairfax-Falls Church community; 474 were people in families, 490 of them were single adults.
  • 30 percent of all persons (286) who were homeless were children under the age of 18.
  • 32 percent of the single adults (155) were over 55 years of age.
  • 57 percent of adults (107) in homeless families were employed.
  • 44 percent (216) of single adults who were homeless suffered from serious mental illness and/or substance abuse.

Get More Facts 

 

Opportunities to Get Involved
Fifth and sixth grade members of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Burke make and decorate lunches for people who come to their hypothermia prevention shelter each winter.

Fifth and sixth grade student members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Burke make (and decorate!) lunches for people who are homeless and come to their hypothermia prevention shelter each winter. Photo: Elaine Runkel

If you and your child are interested in volunteering to help neighbors in our community who are homeless, there are many opportunities. You may want to check with your faith community’s youth program, or if you are involved with scouts, talk to your troop leaders. Many of our nonprofits are also looking for helping hands, too.

Also a reminder that if you see someone in need of shelter, especially during the cold winter months, please call the Police non-emergency number 703-691-2131.

Find a Nonprofit Near You

 

Resources
“We really need to stop homelessness!”Lulu

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