In her work with UCLA's Graduate School of Education, Rebecca Alber assists teachers and schools in meeting students' academic needs through best practices. Alber also instructs online teacher-education courses for Stanford University.
If a student dropped to the linoleum floor hungry and ill, as a classroom community, we would come to her aid immediately. We would offer food and comforting words and search out medical support from the school nurse and possibly even dial 9-1-1.
Yet when students leave the classroom, they follow the social norms we've established here in America: If you see homeless who are ill and hungry, keep walking. Don't encourage that "behavior" by giving them money. If they want help, they can get it.
I don't want to oversimplify the issue of homelessness and poverty in the richest country in the world but that fact that we even have a problem is the problem. The US census this year revealed that nearly half of Americans reported as low income or living in poverty. Homelessness in America has grown exponentially since the late 70s. It's everywhere. And with the current high unemployment rate, it might not be far off before we add children visibly living on the streets to that mix.