How to Write Poetry About Homelessness

Homelessness in the U.S. is on the rise and this complex issue impacts people from of all ages and backgrounds. Read below to learn more about homelessness and how you can respond to it with your words—and your actions.

  1. What. The U.S. Federal Government defines a homeless person as someone who “lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”  But not all homeless people live primarily on the streets. Some people have “unstable housing” and move frequently from place to place. Others often shift from being homeless to having housing—but never have a permanent home. Some homeless individuals and families rely on shelters due to necessity, but many prefer to avoid them because of policies in place.
  2. Why. Poverty continues to be a main cause of homelessness and more than 16% of the United States population lives in poverty. But specific issues increase potential homelessness for certain groups of teens, including: interactions with the criminal justice system and foster care system, sexual orientation, family conflict and violence, teen pregnancy, and mental illness.
  3. Who. People of color and LGBTQI youth are disproportionately represented in the homeless population. There are also specific youth populations who are at greater risk of becoming homeless during their lifetime. And approximately 63% of homeless women identify as survivors of domestic violence.
  4. Take Action. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen near you or donate food and clothes to your local shelter. to take action and help homeless individuals. You can also use your words to advocate for fair housing and legislation that can have a positive impact in the lives of homeless teens.
  5. Power Poetry. Use Power Poetry as an outlet and safe space to share your experiences with homelessness: have you or someone you know struggled with homelessness? Let your voice be heard, and share your experience with other Power Poets.

Bonus: Many children in homeless shelters don't get to celebrate their birthdays. Help turn this around by making and mailing a birthday card to help a homeless child celebrate their special day. Head on over here to for all the materials you'll need for this project. 

Associated non-profits:
Picture the Homeless
Advocates for Children
Safe Horizon: Streetwork

Associated Media:
Kicked Out: LGBT Youth Experience Homelessness
A Brief History of Homelessness in NYC

Get Help:
The Door (NYC)
Ali Forney Center (Queer Youth/NYC)

*We know our non-profits, media and helpful organizations are NYC-centric.  If you have suggestions for organizations doing great work in other parts of the U.S., just let us know and we’ll add them to the list.  Please contact with your suggestions.  


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