Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Day in the Life of a Homeless Person (A)
Lesson 3
From Unit: This I Can Do!
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


This lesson will look at a day in the life of a homeless person and offer students a different point of view. It will demonstrate the importance of social justice and encourage students to adopt values and actions that help other people. While written for a Catholic Elementary School, this lesson may be easily adapted for public school use.


Three Thirty-Minute Class Periods


The learner will seek solutions to help solve a social problem.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

Students will write essays on the needs of homeless people in the community and their responsibility. Teachers may challenge students to take action on their proposals.


  • Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn (see Bibliographic References)
  • Video of "Fly Away Home," a book by Eve Bunting (see Bibliographic References)

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Read the following poem to the class and discuss what it means to give your heart:

    What can I give him,
    Poor man I am?
    If I were a shepherd,
    I would bring a lamb.
    If I were a Wise Man,
    I would do my part.
    Yet what can I give him?
    Give my heart. -Christina Rossetti

  • Define three vocabulary words: homeless, helpfulness, and neighborhood.

  • Read to the class Sam and the Lucky Money. This story is about a boy who has some "lucky money" to spend on Chinese New Year. This year he is allowed to spend it any way he wants. Although he considers many options and sometimes feels angry that he doesn’t have more money, he ultimately gives the money to a homeless man. This story encourages others to see homeless people with empathy and realize that one person can make a difference. Discuss the story and have students describe how the story made them feel.

  • Review the Corporal Works of Mercy or the Core Democratic Values. Challenge the students to think about what their responsibilities are in regards to homeless people. Please be sensitive to the possibility that some of your students may have some personal experience with homelessness.

    • Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. Visit the sick. Visit the imprisoned. Bury the dead.

    • Everyone has the right to petition the government, equality, personal property, freedom of assembly, free speech, minority rights, pursuit of happiness as long as it doesn’t interfere with the common good, and the majority rules.

  • Talk about ways to help the homeless in your community. Use the following questions as a guide for the discussion and an outline for the essays below.

    • What is the need? Who already helps to fill the need?

    • What talents or treasures are given or shared?

    • What goodness does the community experience from that giving or sharing? What is the reward for the one who shared?

    • What happens if the need isn’t met?

    • What are some ways you can make a difference?

  • Optional: Show a video about the life of Blessed Solanus Casey, OFM, a Capuchin Franciscan who fed the poor in Detroit. His story can be read on the Web at: http://www.solanuscasey.org/about.shtml.

  • Show the video “Fly Away Home,” which is a Reading Rainbow episode surrounding the book by Eve Bunting about a homeless boy and his father who live in an airport. Look up the “Reading Rainbow” video collection at your public library. In addition to reading the book, the host interviews homeless families.

  • The following websites provide book lists for introducing children to the issue of homelessness and what they can do about the problem. http://www.pampetty.com/homelessness.htm and  http://homelessed.net/schools/booklist.htm

  • Give a writing assignment in which students write about their responsibility toward homeless people in their community or a neighboring community. Their essays should include answers to the questions above and a proposal for what they can do personally for the cause.


Students will write an essay answering the discussion questions about need in the homeless community and proposing small solutions upon which they can act.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Math: Conduct research to determine the number of homeless people in your community, state, or the country. What percentage of the population is homeless?

Bibliographical References:

  • Chinn , Karen.  Sam and the Lucky Money. Lee and Low Books, 1997. ISBN: 1880000539
  • The Capuchin Franciscans<http://www.ktb.net/~bjm/cap/solanus.html> (No longer available)



Lesson Developed By:

Valerie Williams
Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids
St. Alphonsus Elementary School
Grand Rapids, MI 49505


Philanthropy Framework:


Beth, Teacher Spring Lake, MI10/27/2007 4:11:24 PM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) the book. It is awesome. It generated powerful discussion.

Jackie, Educator Tampa, FL9/16/2012 4:55:50 PM

I struggled to pull my lesson together. Thank you for providing resources online for all to benefit from.

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Unit Contents:

Overview:This I Can Do! Summary


Stewardship and the Rainforest
Day in the Life of a Homeless Person (A)
Why Volunteer?
Create a Volunteer Spirit

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