A Holistic View of Homelessness

Two Thacher classes team up to study a pervasive issue firsthand.
For four weeks, Mr. Carney’s ethics class focused on the issue of homelessness. The objective: to discover its root causes, understand key areas of concern,  and seek possible solutions. In the process, they were able to provide a bit of relief to people experiencing homelessness. 

The ethics students collaborated with Mr. Fagan’s Honors Statistics class for this homelessness unit. Stats students managed the empirical data while the ethics students looked at the human aspect of the problem. 

In addition to analyzing homelessness data, students helped gather some of it by participating in a point-in-time count, the annual effort to tally the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness on a given day.

“The organizations we worked with have done an excellent job of collecting and analyzing the raw data,” said Mr. Fagan. “My students studied the graphs developed by those organizations and had a chance to see how statistics are applied in real-world situations and learned what a challenge it can be to gather thorough data.”

In Ojai, a group prepared and served food at a local homeless shelter. Other groups traveled to Santa Barbara and Ventura where they roamed the streets and homeless encampments, beginning at 4:16 a.m., to perform the annual point-in-time count. Another group made the two-hour drive to Los Angeles’s Skid Row to hand out sandwiches. (Click here to view a video created by Lily ’20.) 

Students from each of the groups took the opportunity to speak with people they encountered and get a view from inside the issue. “It made me realize how easy it is to become homeless,” said Celia ’20, “and how hard it is to get out of it.” Vincent ’20 agreed: “There was a woman who was widowed. She had a master’s degree and worked all of her life, but what she had saved for retirement wasn’t enough. And there was another guy who had been a homeowner, but lost everything because of alcoholism.” 

Another group focused on San Francisco and sponsored a fundraiser and a clothing drive for a Bay Area organization that serves the homeless population. They also published a newspaper to share in-depth information about the issue with the Thacher community. Download it here.

This is the second year the homeless unit has been offered, and Mr. Carney foresees keeping it in the curriculum next year.

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