Dr. Elizabeth O. Crawford and I met at the 2014 National Conference for Social Studies. I presented a session, Change the World: Local and Global Think-Care-Act Projects, and Dr. Crawford, an education professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington, attended my session. From our meeting arose our EA/UNCW Think-Care-Act Project Partnership.
Through the 2014-15 school year, my current and former sixth and seventh grade students at The Episcopal Academy “taught” Dr. Crawford’s senior pre-service education majors how to think about personal qualities and talents, identify passions for social change, and act to change the world for the better. Through Skype and shared project plans, my students and those of Dr. Crawford have inspired and encouraged each other to make a difference. We are delighted and proud to share the TCAP work of our students, and we will present jointly at NCSS in November 2015.
For Dr. Crawford’s students, the culminating piece of the Think-Care-Act Projects was to write a guest blog post about their projects. Below, and for the next few blog postings, you will read guest blogs from future teachers, with links for further research and teaching suggestions. This one by T. Horne and L. Taylor deals with issues of animal and human homelessness—inspirational reading for thinking, caring, and acting!—Sue Cannon
GUEST POST #4: Helping the Homeless: Animal and Human
By Taylor Horne and Lauren Taylor
University of North Carolina Wilmington
As living things, we all need resources to survive: air, food, water, clothing. What about shelter? Something we all need, to be safe, to be warm. But we don't all have it. In every community there are those who have no place to go. If we put our minds and hearts together, we can start a change and make a difference. In this project, we looked at the issue of homelessness as it affects animals and humans, and we consider how teachers might involve students in working on these issues.
Facts about Homeless Animals
In the United States, there are 70 million stray animals, outnumbering homeless people five to one. Of the 70 million homeless animals, 6 to 8 million are brought into U.S. shelters each year, most coming from streets, seizures, and families who no longer wish to (or are able to) hold responsibility (HSUS, 2014). Often after large holidays, there is a spike in puppy and kitten numbers in shelters, due to impulsive and unprepared gifting (Dogtime, 2009). In extreme cases of cruelty, animal owners have even been known to leave pets behind when moving (Hope for Paws, 2015). The reality is for all of these cases, 2.7 million of these animals will be euthanized, never receiving a second chance (Pepelko, 2014).
Every year, taxes pay one to two billion dollars for sheltering, euthanizing, and disposal of these animals (Pepelko, 2014). Because funding goes mainly to removal, shelters have minimal resources to protect animals. The 2.7 million euthanized animals, are considered adoptable by the HSUS (2014), meaning, no circumstances exist delaying adoption. These animals were loving, healthy, and ready to find a permanent home. For animals entering the shelter with health complications, behavior problems, and abuse history, hardly anything can be done in terms of rehabilitation (Texas Alliance for Homeless Pets, 2013).
Project Potential for Students
By no means do these grotesque numbers need to be shared with young students, but the call for action is there! These animals have lives that are easily forgotten and deserve a better existence. Students may not understand the tragedy behind shelter animals, but they do understand human animal relationships: animals love humans and we love them back. Students can be the factor that changes this equation.
Students can remind the community why the human/animal relationship is important by spreading information, students can collect items to help in the care for these animals, donate their time, or sponsor animals. Though most students cannot adopt or rehabilitate these animals, sometimes a jar of peanut butter can make the difference in a good or bad day for these animals waiting to find their families.
(Editor’s note: My middle school students have learned that most shelters will not allow students under the age of sixteen to work at a shelter directly with animals. However, using shelter websites, students can determine shelter needs and can make blankets and toys, collect treats and supplies, and teach their peers about the benefits of adopting from animal shelters.)
Facts about Homeless People
Homelessness affects a wide range of people and is a prominent issue in the United States. According to National Health Care for the Homeless Council, “A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation.” There are several additions to this definition as defined by the Council. One example is if a person is “doubled up” or living in a friend’s house without paying rent.
In 2013, one in seven people in the U.S. suffered from hunger. Three-and-a-half million people slept somewhere besides a home, be that a shelter, a park bench, or their car. Twenty-five percent of those experiencing homelessness are children under the age of eighteen. Another twenty percent suffer from some type of mental illness. Twenty-three percent are veterans. Thirty percent have been victims of domestic violence, and for that reason forced to leave their homes for their own safety. Thirty-five percent of the homeless population includes families living in poverty as a unit, making their battle to defeat homelessness even more challenging (National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, 2011).
There are three types of homelessness. Some people are chronically homeless, some are transitionally homeless, and some are episodically homeless. Chronically homeless people are likely to stay in a shelter for a prolonged period of time, while transitionally homeless people are in shelters only for a short time while they overcome a catastrophic event. Episodically homeless people are in the shelters when they are homeless, then in other housing arrangements for a period of time, and they essentially switch back and forth.
Taking Action: Providing Help via Homeless Shelters
All three types of homeless people often look to the help provided by shelters during their times of need. That is why I chose to base most of my actions on shelters themselves. I made tie blankets with my sorority and we delivered them to the Good Shepard Center because blankets are one of their biggest donation needs. I am in the application process of having a permanent volunteer position at a local homeless shelter as a receptionist. I also sponsored a separate event with my sorority where some of us went to serve food to homeless people at another shelter downtown. We also took various donations to the shelter when we went.
Additionally, one of my close friends is going to work at a summer camp for high schoolers that want to help the homeless community of Asheville, N.C. To keep costs low, and the number of campers high, the staff of this camp is asked to raise half of their salary. I gave her a monetary donation in support of this goal. I also have spoken with my local library, and I will be setting up a donation box there that I will pick up weekly over the summer and deliver to the homeless shelter in my home town.
Taking Action with Students via Think-Care-Act Projects
|Think-Care-Act Art by J. Kadir Cannon|
It is important for teachers to empower kids to want to make a difference in their world. This can be as simple as just telling them that they aren’t too small or too young to do big things! Incorporating activities like the Think-Care-Act Project into the elementary classroom is a great way to empower kids to make a difference. This way, they are forced a little bit outside of their comfort zone because they know they have to take action somehow, and they have to make a difference. This gets them thinking about things they care about, and what their passions are. If kids can figure this out at a young age, when they are older they will continue to develop those passions and continue taking action for their cause. Teachers essentially create a chain reaction when they implement these projects into the classroom!
-- Taylor Horne & Lauren Taylor, 2015
important facts about homelessness, please take a look at these links: