Dear Instructor,

After a decade of decline, homelessness in the U.S. started to rise again in 2016. More than a half million Americans are homelessness on any given night now, one-third of them living on the streets or parks or woods. In U.S. cities of all sizes, homelessness has become an acute and growing problem rising on the radar of most mayors. However, one of the main challenges for officials in providing remedies for people without homes – such as building affordable housing or expanding shelters – is public opposition! The public doesn’t want to see homelessness, but they don’t want to see the policy solution in their neighborhood.

This film and book (a free chapter is offered below courtesy of Cornell University Press), based on the actual lives and stories of people experiencing homelessness, ask us to look at our own perceptions. What are we afraid of? What do we think will happen if we open our neighborhoods or hearts to “homeless people”? How do our thoughts and attitudes affect people who are experiencing homelessness?

Thank you for exploring this important issue in your class:

  • Read “The Stigma of Being Homeless (pps. 24-39) chapter 3 from The Man in the Dog Park: Coming Up Close to Homelessness, a book co-authored with a homeless veteran. Use this link to access the free chapter (provided, compliments of Cornell University Press).
  • Watch the 14-minute film that focuses on “stigma” and asks all of us to look at how we think about “homeless people.” This animated documentary film is a great complement to the book. It is focused specifically on the topic of “Stigma” and goes well with chapter 3 from the book “The Stigma of Being Homeless.” It provides a provocative way to spark reflection and conversation about how we think about and talk about “homeless people.”
  • Consider your Response. After having watched the film, think for a minute about your overall response; select one or more of the following phrases to consider.
    After watching the film,
    I was most surprised by . . .
    The most memorable part for me was when . . .
    I would say that I was most challenged by . . .
  • Have a class discussion, and if you like, you can draw from the question bank provided via this link.

If your class was assigned the whole book, download an expanded bank of questions that address the wider range of topics found in the book.