SJ Engage: Homelessness and Poverty

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

- Nelson Mandela

Welcome to San Jose's biggest community issue.

If you're reading this, you might be a San José local who understands the extremely high price of living in the California Bay Area. Affordable housing and homelessness are such big topics here that it's on every Councilmember's newsletter and City Hall Meetings can last well until midnight debating on how to deal with these issues. With most San José residents spending more than 50% of their earnings on rent each month, and the amount of homeless encampment increasing on every corner, we've got the resources to keep you knowledgeable about this these issues that hit very close to home.

Ready to get started? Click on the button below!


Resources - Nonfiction

The American Housing Crisis, book cover
The War on Poverty, book cover
The Girl's Guide to Homelessness, book cover
Poverty and Homelessness, book cover
Homelessness, book cover
The Glass Castle, book cover

Resources - Fiction

No Parking at the End Times, book cover
The Girl in Between, book cover
Girl in Pieces, book cover
Winterfolk, book cover
Sleeping in My Jeans, book cover
Learning to Breathe, book cover
Words We Don't Say, book cover
Where I Live, book cover
No Place, book cover
Runaway, book cover


  • PATH – A state-wide nonprofit organization that helps local homeless individuals rebuild their lives and move into permanent apartments (including outreach services they offer at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in San José.)
  • National Alliance to End Homelessness – A nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is to end homelessness in the United States.
  • Destination: Home – A public-private partnership with a mission of ending homelessness in Santa Clara County.



For Educators

This toolkit is just a framework for facilitating an SJ Engage Circle.


Sample Discussion Questions

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing is considered affordable when a person pays no more than 30% of income toward housing costs, including utilities. When people pay more than 30% of income toward housing costs, they are considered “housing cost burdened,” and when they pay more than 50%, they are considered severely housing cost burdened.

  1. To what extent are you and your family experiencing changes in housing costs and affordability?
  2. What changes related to housing costs do you see in your community?
  3. To what extent is housing affordability affecting your thinking or experience of the American Dream?
  4. What percentage of your income does your housing cost? What is the impact on your life?
  5. How is housing affordability affecting your vision for your own future – or the future of your community as you know it?
  6. What would you like to see happen in your community or the country to begin addressing housing affordability?


Common Core: ELA Writing

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.9 – Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards: Action

  • AC.9-12.17 – I take responsibility for standing up to exclusion, prejudice, and injustice.


Email or visit for more information.


This project has been made possible in part by a grant from Silicon Valley Community Foundation.