Bibliography on Homelessness

Following is a list of books and curriculum resources on teaching about homelessness and housing.

Picture Books

Barbour, Karen, Mr. Bow Tie (Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991). In this children’s book, paintings and text relate how a family helps a homeless man, Mr. Bow Tie, to find his family and re-enter society. Based on a true story, it challenges readers to create personal solutions to homelessness.

Bunting, Eve, Fly Away Home (Birlington, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1991). A homeless boy, who lives in an airport with his father trying not to be noticed, is given hope when he sees a trapped bird find its freedom.

Chalofsky, Margie, et al., Changing Places: A Kid’s View of Shelter Living (Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House, Inc., 1992). Written by three employees of a family shelter this book uses the words from and illustrations of eight children. It depicts various adolescent perspectives as their families enter the shelter, settle briefly, and then leave.

Disalvo-Ryan, Dyanne, Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen (New York: Morrow and Company Inc., 1990). An illustrated children’s book that describes a young boy’s concern when he sees a man rummaging through garbage. His Uncle Willie shows him the soup kitchen where he volunteers and the boy learns about compassion friendship, and hunger in his community.

Evans, Michael, ed., Homeless in America (Alexandria, VA: Acropolis Books, 1992). A joint project of the National Mental Health Association and Families for the Homeless. A powerful collection of black and white photographs that shows the human side of homelessness. A useful book for students of all ages.

Morrice, Elena and Lesley Kaplow, I Want To Go Home (White Plains: The Center for Preventive Psychiatry, White Plains Clinic, 1988). Pencil drawings and minimal narration relate how a young girl and her family experience poverty.

Salter, Heidi, Taddy McFinley and the Great Grey Grimly (Kansas City, MO: Landmark Publications, 1989). Taddy’s vivid imagination is unappreciated and a source of trouble until she meets an old bag woman who understands her and inspires her to an amazing act of courage.

Sendak, Maurice, We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (New York: Harper Collins, 1993). Reinterpretation of the traditional nursery rhymes “Jack and Guy” and “We are in the Dumps” through illustrations of modern poverty and homelessness.

Spangler, Ruth, Mandy’s House: The Story of a Homeless Family Who Finds a New Place to Live (Louisville: Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of Louisville, Inc., 1990). The simple text and colorful pictures help young readers understand and relate to the different forms of homeless- ness. At first the family lives with relatives, then in a borrowed bus, and finally in a shelter while waiting for transitional housing.

Books — Early Elementary

Chandler Warner, Gertrude, The Boxcar Children (Morton Grove: Albert Whitman & Company, 1942). The story of four orphans who are determined to survive on their own and their search for a safe place to live. 2nd grade.

Guthrie, Donna and Dennis Hockerman, ill., A Rose for Abby (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988). Abby, whose father preaches in a large urban church, sees a homeless woman rummaging in trash cans and Abby decides to help the neighborhood’s street people. Primary/up.

Rozakis, Laurie, Homelessness: Can We Solve the Problem? (New York: Century Books, 1995). An easy-to-read nonfiction book that examines the scope and causes of homelessness in a way that puts a human face on it. Includes a glossary and an index. 3rd grade/up.

Books — Middle Elementary and Junior High

Downing Hahn, Mary, December Stillness (New York: Avon Books, 1988). The story of a 15- year-old girl whose interviews of a homeless Vietnam veteran help her realize that the memories haunting him are similar to her father’s memories. The interviews help her to understand and become closer to her father. Middle School/up.

Fox, Paula, Monkey Island (Des Plaines: Dell Publishing, 1991). Forced to live on the streets of New York after his mother disappears from their hotel room, eleven-year-old Clay is befriended by two men who help him survive. 5th grade/up.

Grove, Vicki, The Fastest Friend in the West (New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1990). The story of homeless Vern and shy isolated middle-class Lori emphasizes their shared emotions and humanity. 5th grade/Jr. High.

Harris, Mark Jonathan, Come the Morning (New York: Bradbury Press, 1989). The story of a 13-year-old boy and his family who move to Los Angeles in search of his father who left them to look for work. Buffeted about like other homeless families they struggle to survive, living in their car, relying on the strength of their family. 5th grade/up.

Holman, Felice, Slake’s Limbo (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1974). The story of 13-year-old Slake who escapes from an abusive existence to live in the subway tunnels. It explores the psychological changes that occur to a child hiding on the streets. 6th grade/up.

Holman, Felice, Secret City, USA (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1990). Story of two inner-city boys who rehabilitate an abandoned house and the problems they face from hunger, a drug dealing gang, and the police. Jr. High.

Huckfeldt, Rachel and Jaclyn West, Mommy Says We’re Homeless (St. Louis: St. Patrick Center, 1993). The book examines the emotional effects and stigmas associated with homelessness upon children seen through the eyes of a homeless adolescent. The boy’s friendship with another homeless child shows how simple understanding and concern can alleviate much of the alienation a homeless child feels. 6th grade/up.

Mathis, Sharon Bell, Sidewalk Story (New York: Puffin, 1986). Nine-year-old Lilly Etta feels awful when her best friend’s family gets evicted from their apartment, so she does something about it. Jr. High/up.

Mazer, Harry, Cave Under the City (New York: Harper Collins, 1986). Set in the Great Depression, this novel tells how a 12-year-old cares for his younger brother while his father is away looking for work and his mother is in the hospital. Middle School/up.

Paulsen, Gary, The Crossing (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 1987). A 14-year-old Mexican orphan tires of the life on the streets of Juarez and crosses the Rio Grande looking for a better life. He meets an alcoholic soldier who can’t escape his memories of Vietnam. Eventually the soldier helps the boy find a better life. 5th grade/up.

Pinkwater, Jill, Tales of the Bronx (New York: Macmillan, 1991). In their search for a group of missing cats, a group of children in the Bronx encounters the problems of homelessness firsthand. 5th grade/up.

Spinelli, Jerry, Maniac Magee (Scranton: Harper Collins Publishers, 1990). The story of runaway Jeffery Magee and the myths that develop about him. 5th grade/up.

Voight, Cynthia, Homecoming (Westminister: Ballantine Books, 1981). Book traces the adventures of four abandoned children and their survival as a unit until they find someone to support and love them. 5th grade/up.

Books — High School

Kozol, Jonathan, Rachael and Her Children (New York: Ballantine Books, 1989). An eloquent look at what homelessness means from the perspective of the homeless themselves. High school/up.

Vanderstaay, Steven with photos by Joseph Sorrentino, Street Lives: An Oral History of Homeless Americans (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992). A powerful collection of short essays by dozens of homeless people. High school/up.


I Want To Go Home – A Pictorial Essay of Homelessness in New Hampshire, Video Verite, Attn: Peter Braddock, PO Box 1579, Portsmouth, NH 03802; 603-436-3360. $25, includes s&h. A 21-minute video that features outstanding photographs depicting the homeless and their living conditions in the virtually all white communities of New Hampshire. It is a little slowpaced and should include more information on how the homeless are helping themselves and what can be done in the community to prevent homelessness. Suitable for use at the junior high and high school levels.

Homeless in America, NMHA, 1021 Prince St., Alexandra VA 22314. $19.95, includes book. A 12-minute video based on the still photography in the book by the same title mentioned above.


Unsheltered Lives: An Interdisciplinary Resource and Activity Guide for Teaching about Homelessness in Grades K – 12 by Alex Messinger. Department of Education, Compensatory Education Unit, 120 State St., Montpelier, VT 05620-2501. Free. An exceptional 84-page guide that will help children understand economic injustices, identify stereotypes and dispel myths about homelessness, and prepare them to deal with important social problems instead of “sheltering” them from the concerns of society.

Sharon Quint, Schooling Homeless Children, A Working Model for America’s Public Schools (New York: Teachers College Press, 1994). A compelling story of a Seattle Elementary School that came to grips with the homelessness of some of its students and created a community-wide response. A case study that confronts the issue of poverty, racism and class prejudice.


National Coalition for Homeless, 1612 K St. NW, #1004, Washington, DC 20006, 202-775-1322; fax 202-775- 1316. Curricular materials, bibliographies and other materials are available from this national advocacy group.

Homebase, 870 Market Street, Suite 1220, San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 788-7961. Homebase is the Bay Area’s regional law and social policy center on homelessness. They are the publishers of the guide “Reaching and Teaching Children Without Housing.”