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SFU prof designs homelessness teaching resource for B.C. high schools

In the province with Canada’s “poorest postal code” and poorest families, a SFU economics professor thinks it’s time B.C. high schools began teaching their students about the economics of homelessness.

Learning about Homelessness in British Columbia is a free online teaching guide released today designed especially for Civics 11, Social Studies 11, Economics 12, First Nations 12, Law 12, and Social Justice 12 courses.

“There’s not a lot known about homelessness in Canada, particularly in the economics of homelessness, so it’s kind of difficult for a person doing research, like a high school teacher, to really go out there and come up with anything that’s really trustworthy. So it seemed like packaging it would allow them to be more affective in the classroom,” SFU* Economics Prof Krishna Pendakur, who came up with the idea for the resource, told the Tyee.

Pendakur and educational consultant Jennifer Hale developed the guide over two years with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. It includes a 100-page background document for teachers, and seven to 11 lesson plans for each course.

While some of the courses, such as Social Justice 12 and First Nations 12 might attract students with a strong social conscience, Pendakur says he purposefully picked courses students unaware of the causes behind homelessness might attend. Those that do take it will be in the minority in Canada: it’s only available for B.C. students.

“As far as we know, this is the only resource available suited to Canadian senior high school classrooms,” he told the Tyee. “But since each province in Canada and each state in the U.S. has a different set of prescribed learning outcomes for each course, it’s difficult to make something that is actually going to be useful to teachers everywhere.

But despite educational differences, the causes behind homelessness remain the same. Pendakur says U.S. research shows that despite variations in homeless populations across the country, the core reason for homelessness in each area was the gap between income and rental rates. It’s a problem that—as residents of the province with the lowest minimum wage and some of the highest rental rates in the country—B.C. students will deal with once they graduate.

“I hope the outcome is that they don’t feel powerless to deal with it, that they don’t feel like this is some kind of intractable problem, but rather that they feel like this is a choice that we make as a society,” Pendakur told the Tyee. “We kind of choose via electoral governance how much social housing that we’d like to have. And we choose how much we’d like to redistribute from rich to poor, and we don’t have to make the choices that we’re choosing.”

*The Tyee originally reported the Krishna Pendakur was a UBC professor. We apologize for the error.

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