Homelessness and poverty are issues that too many families experience, but it is also an issue that some families have the privilege of never knowing. According to LAHSA’s pre-pandemic homeless count, within L.A. city, the number of people experiencing homelessness is 41,290, a 14.2% increase over last year. It has become an issue impossible to ignore and impossible to fix without the help of all members of our community, especially those who already have the privilege of permanent housing.
Even with everyone’s help, solving homelessness will not happen overnight. It will take generations of hard work, compassion, patience, organization, and generosity to change society enough to meet this goal. That is why we must empower our children to be part of the solution for an issue so entrenched in our society that it would almost certainly outlive many of us.
You might be thinking, “How do I talk to my child about such a serious issue?” Exposing happy children to the realities of homelessness and poverty might seem daunting and awful, but children’s books can provide that reality check in an insightful, loving, and age-appropriate way.
St. Vincent de Paul of Los Angeles, an organization focused on helping those experiencing homelessness and poverty, has put together a list of children’s books that can help you and your child talk about homelessness.
Books about Homelessness for Children
“Tommy and his mother walk to school every morning through the park. One day, he sees a curious walrus sitting by himself under a tree, but no one else notices him. After several encounters, Tommy begins to believe that he is the only one who can see this walrus. Why can’t anyone else see him? Come find out as Tommy tries to unravel the mystery of the “invisible” walrus.”
Still a Family
“A little girl and her parents have lost their home and must live in a homeless shelter. Even worse, due to a common shelter policy, her dad must live in a men’s shelter, separated from her and her mom. Despite these circumstances, the family still finds time to be together. They meet at the park to play hide-and-seek, slide on slides, and pet puppies. While the young girl wishes for better days when her family is together again under a roof of their very own, she continues to remind herself that they’re still a family even in times of separation.”
On Our Street
“On Our Street: Our First Talk About Poverty by Dr. Jillian Roberts and Jaime Casap addresses all the questions that come up around homelessness from “Are there children who are homeless?” to ” What is it like to live on the streets?” All these questions are answered and accompanied by photographs. There is also a section on how to help people living in poverty.” –Growing Book By Book
The Can Man
“Tim’s birthday is just a week away, and more than anything he wants a skateboard. But money is tight, and Tim knows his family cannot afford to buy him a board.
As Tim ponders how he might earn money for a skateboard, he hears The Can Man down the street collecting empty soft drink cans. The clang of the cans in the homeless man’s cart gives Tim an idea. He will collect cans too, and cash them in for the redemption money. By the end of the week, Tim has almost reached his goal–until a couple of chance encounters with The Can Man change everything.”