An article in Wednesday’s Winnipeg Free Press about a one day event to collect the stories of our city’s homeless people reminded me of a book I recently added to our church library. Illustrated by a former student of my husband’s Jane Heinrichs and written by Jamie Casap and Jillian Roberts On Our Street: Our First Talk About Poverty introduces the issues of poverty and homelessness in a gentle way that is appropriate for school aged children. Kids learn why people become homeless because of things like natural disasters, mental illness,wars or abusive family situations. The book uses photographs as well as Jane’s illustrations to pose questions children might have after seeing homeless people on the street.It encourages children to be empathetic. What would it be like to live on the street? Finally the book empowers kids by giving them practical ideas for making a difference like collecting food and clothing for donation or extending friendship to other children at school who might seem lonely or unhappy.
Perhaps if we can start early to help children become empathetic and understanding of people who find themselves without a home, society will one day have the will to provide the adequate housing, supportive services and social connectedness that could end homelessness in North America.