Intercultural Knowledge - The Culture of Homelessness


We see signs like this all the time...there is a deep connection between mental illness, poverty, and homelessness.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this lesson's material, students will be able to:

  • Articulate their own cultural values and how they compare to those who are homeless.
  • Identify key aspects of the culture of homelessness.
  • Identify key aspects of the verbal and non-verbal cultures of the homeless.
  • Reflect upon personal and societal attitudes about homelessness.
  • Reflect upon personal judgments related to homelessness, homeless culture, and the causes of homelessness.


Culture surrounds us and is a part of our everyday life. We are often unaware of it because it penatrates us so deeply.

In the field of Sociology we can define Culture as the collection of norms, values, expectations, and material objects that identify a specific group. (Be sure to click on the links to review the definitions of each of these terms.)

The cultural group we are going to focus on in this assignment is homelessness. Consider this: If you were going to describe a person who is homeless what norms, values, expectations and material objects would you associate with them? Your own perceptions of this group are biased and based upon (likely, unless you were homeless yourself or have worked extensively with homeless people) very limited direct knowledge.

Your first task is to volunteer in an organization specifically geared to serve the homeless. You may work in a shelter, a soup kitchen, a food bank, or another program. You will log 10 volunteer hours of work time at this organization.

While volunteering at the organization you have two choices:

1) You can identify and connect with a person who is homeless and the organization's staff may be able to help you do that. You are going to get to know this person, interview him/her, and create a presentation based on this person's life. Your presentation should also include information on your volunteer hours, what you did and where, and a reflection on that experience.


2) Select a research topic connected to homelessness. You need to find and read at least two peer reviewed articles. Your presentation will include a summary of the topic, information from each article, APA citation for each article, the connection of that topic to people who are homeless in Maine (e.g. services available, specific issues). Your presentation should also include information on your volunteer hours, what you did and where, and a reflection on that experience. In the rubric this portion will graded under the case study footage section (instead of the interview).

The preferred application for this presentation is to use Adobe Spark Video.

For this assignment you will be documenting the story using an app called Adobe Spark Video.

Your presentation will contain a combination of text, images, and/or movies that meets the expectations outlined in the rubric below. You will post a link to your presentation in the Culture of Homelessness Discussion board. Feel free to comment on and discuss each others' presentations, however the grade for the assignment will be based upon the presentation alone.

If you complete the Service-Learning option, I would like each of you to complete the online Service-Learning Experience Summary.

Completion of this online survey is REQUIRED for any credit to be applied to your SL project.