Inspiring students to learn about homelessness and social change
While StreetSmart has been engaging with schools for years, our new program Schools for Change, has recently launched as an exciting offering to school communities across Australia. The program offers resources for age-appropriate learning and advocacy experiences as well as support to create meaningful and easy fundraisers. Driving this new program is our belief in the power of local-led change and a whole of community response in ending homelessness. By supporting schools to engage in discussions and advocacy around homelessness and social change, we hope to empower young Australians to be socially aware and inspired change makers in their communities.
The team at StreetSmart have been helping school students and connecting with school communities since our launch in 2003. We have loved that students reach out and are keen to learn and know more about homelessness in Australia, and find ways to raise funds to help local people experiencing homelessness. To date, these collaborations have been informal with students using our ‘Library’ of media articles/reports and our ‘About Homelessness’ page to research and increase learning, with students and families often raising funds for StreetSmart to distribute to local homelessness services For many years we have wanted to create a program to support students and teachers, and take this collaboration to the next level. Inspired by this student led interest in homelessness and community we’ve done just that and last week we launched our Schools for Change program and tool kit.
Breaking down Misconceptions and Myths
These numbers, derived from a survey involving over 1,000 Australians, reveal the misconceptions and stigma that surround homelessness in Australia. They show that many of us are unclear on why people experience homelessness, what it can look like, and how it can be tackled. The stigma and misconceptions revealed in this and other studies are not only harmful but also hold us back from a collective approach of advocacy and social change. They perpetuate a narrow view of what homelessness looks like and place responsibility upon individual people instead of policy. When we share evidence based information that dispels myths and listen to stories of lived-experience which foster connection and diffuse ‘us-versus-them’ thinking, we are equipped and empowered to make change.
Homelessness can be an uncomfortable topic, especially to broach with children and young people. But we know that stigma and public perceptions can be real barriers to investing in and implementing the solutions to ending homelessness.
Throughout StreetSmart’s 20 years of operation, we have been a source of knowledge for students and often the charity recipient of school events. Education and advocacy has always been an important part of our work and through Schools for Change, we are working to support young Australians and their educators to talk about homelessness and social change in age-appropriate, and meaningful ways.
Supporting educators and empowering students
In consultation with educators across Australia and drawing upon our homelessness sector knowledge, these four classroom activities have been designed to introduce and explore homelessness and social change in primary school classrooms. Through interactive, inclusive, and flexible activities students are invited to reflect on what makes a safe and secure home, what different experiences of homelessness are like, how to identify and bust myths about homelessness, and how big change can start small – even with their own actions in their own community.
Fundraising for local impact
Schools are invited to sign up and hold a fundraiser that will engage their students and community in collective action and advocacy to tackle homelessness. To create a meaningful and easy event, schools can download posters, fast fact sheets, presentations, and videos. Funds raised stay as close as possible to where they were raised, providing much needed support to grassroots services assisting those at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Often these organisations have limited funding but are caring for their communities’ most vulnerable in tangible and powerful ways.
A need to engage with increasingly relevant social challenges
“These resources are outstanding! Homelessness is a very fragile topic and one that needs delivering with expertise and knowledge.Your resources enable teachers to do this through thorough lesson plans and clear learning intentions.
Homelessness is a very real social issue that is visible even in small rural townships like ours. I know students from our school community have faced homelessness over the years. With minimal rentals available and rising costs this issue will be amplified.”
– Primary Educator on the Fleurieu Peninsula, SA
School communities making a difference in their region
“Fundraising with StreetSmart was fantastic! We loved knowing that our efforts would help grassroots homelessness services create real change for people experiencing homelessness”
– Secondary School in Melbourne
Thank you to our Collaborators!
This program has not evolved overnight, nor is it a solo accomplishment. A very big thank you to the teachers and education sector leaders across Australia who have been instrumental in the development of this program, from the fundraising to the educational aspects. Educators took the time to advise and guide the development of concept as well as review prototype materials with feedback.
Schools for Change is an ongoing initiative and we are keen to hear any experiences or feedback about the materials or the program. You can drop us a line via the Contact Form or reach out to Isabella on email@example.com or on 0408 222 123.