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Teaching About Homelessness

Here in the Washington area, many public schools have gotten involved with teaching children about homelessness through participation in the annual Fannie Mae Help the Homeless Walkathon, which is a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations that serve the homeless or try to prevent homelessness. Full disclosure: For five years I organized walkers to participate in this event to raise money for a local soup kitchen.

And more schoolchildren in this area are increasingly homeless themselves, according to "Schools Face Sharp Rise in Homeless Students," published Feb. 8 in the Washington Post.

So I was eager to take a look at a short preview of a DVD about homelessness sent my way that the producers are hoping will be used in an educational setting. It's called "Adrift on American Streets" and it features 27 homeless men and women who were filmed talking about their lives.

It's heavy stuff. One woman talks about how she's been "sober for two days." Another man talks about the difficulty of finding a job because he's been to prison. "I want to find one city I can stumble into ... and get myself a job," he says. But it's not all gloomy. "I hitchhiked around the country. Those are the glory days," says one man. The monologues by homeless people are very engaging.

I think that "Adrift on American Streets" could provide a centerpiece for a serious discussion about urban issues—or even the possible impact of the economic downturn—among older high school students.

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