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Ivy Homeless in San Francisco

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Ivy Homeless in San Francisco is an award-winning children's book published by Reach And Teach in 2011. We are now in the planning phase of a new web site called Project Ivy where children and teachers around the country can learn about the issue of homelessness from Ivy (as voiced by author Summer Brenner), get resources about homelessness, and find ways to take action. Plus, in July 2013 we'll release a comprehensive language arts study guide for teachers to use with the book in the classroom.

Below you will find an introduction to the book, information about the awards it has won so far, and resources for learning about and taking action on homelessness.

If you have resources you want to share, ideas for activities, or questions about the book or homelessness, please click here to contact us!

About the Book:

In this empathetic tale of hope, understanding, and the importance of family, readers face the difficult issue of poverty and the many hardships of being homeless through an inspiring young heroine named Ivy. Ivy is the story of a young girl who finds herself homeless on the streets of San Francisco when she and her father, Poppy, are evicted from his artist loft.

Struggling to survive day to day, Ivy and Poppy befriend a dog who takes them to the ramshackle home of quirky siblings Eugenia and Oscar Orr, marking the start of some amazing adventures. Blending a spoonful of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist with a dash of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and a few pinches of the Adventures of Lassie, Ivy's tale will appeal to young readers as well as give adults material to discuss with children.


The book has garnered a Moonbeam Book Awards Bronze Medal and the Children's Literary Classics Silver Book Award. The Moonbeam Children's Book Awards are intended to bring increased recognition to exemplary children's books and their creators, and to celebrate children's books and life-long reading. Each year's entries are judged by expert panels of youth educators, librarians, booksellers, and book reviewers of all ages. Award recipients receive gold, silver and bronze medals and stickers depicting a mother and child reading and silhouetted by a full moon.

This year's awards attracted over 800 entries from throughout North America and the English-speaking world. Medals will go to a diverse group of authors, illustrators and publishers from 34 U.S. states, 5 Canadian provinces, and 2 countries overseas.

Many of Moonbeam's award-winning books encourage children to be generous and compassionate, to stand up to bullies, and to believe in fulfilling their dreams. The diversity of the winning publishers proves that promoting childhood literacy knows no boundaries, as medal-winners came not only from long-established publishers and university presses, but from small presses, foundations, and self-published entrepreneurs.

"This year's Moonbeam award winners confirm that books can change children's lives," says Moonbeam Awards founder Jerrold Jenkins, father of four children ranging in ages 8 to 18. "They've already had a big impact on the judges and the kids that read them, so we know these books were created to enrich childrens' lives. The Moonbeams are all about rewarding these books and bringing them to the attention of parents, booksellers, librarians - and to the kids themselves."

Ivy won the 2011 Children's Literary Classics (CLC) Silver Book Award for Pre-Teen Fiction.

CLC, an organization dedicated to furthering excellence in literature, takes great pride in its role to help promote classic children's literature which appeals to youth, while educating and encouraging positive values in the impressionable young minds of future generations. Judging is based upon the criteria set forth by Literary Classics' highly selective awards committee which honors books promoting character, vision, creativity and learning, through content which possesses the key elements found in well-crafted literature.

The Literary Classics judging committee is comprised of experts with backgrounds in publishing, writing, editing, design, illustration, and book reviewing.

Fiction but Not Fiction:

One out of 45 children in the United States will go to sleep without a home of his or her own this year.  That represents nearly 1.6 million children. These are NOT the faces people think of when they hear the word "homeless."

Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco (a novel for ages 8 and up published by Reach And Teach in June 2011) may be a fictional story, but Ivy's difficulties represent the real tragedy faced by too many people each night and day in America. If Ivy were a real girl, she'd want you to learn about homelessness, its root causes, the effects being homeless can have on people, ways in which YOU can help people that are homeless, and ways that we can all work together to reduce homelessness in our country. 

As we release this incredible novel in June 2011, we're building this portal that will provide comprehensive information about homelessness, tools for learning and discussion, and concrete ways people can make a difference. We'll explain a bit about each section in Ivy's voice.

Ivy: I wish people could understand what it's like for a kid like me, having to wake up in the morning on the street, in a shelter, or on some kind person's floor, and having to go to school with all these other kids who have homes. I don't want them to know what's going on with me, but when they and the teachers don't know, they expect things from me that are impossible. It is so frustrating. That's why I was so excited to hear about this segment on 60 Minutes about children in Florida. Why don't you watch that now?


Ivy Says: One of my friends at the shelter, Clarisse, says that what hurts her the most is when people on the street won't even look at her. It's like she's invisible, not real, just a whisp of air that maybe doesn't smell too good.

Many people feel helpless when they encounter homeless individuals and families, wondering if there is truly anything they can do to make a real impact. The Reach And Teach team has been feeding homeless people for ten years through a program run by the Urban Ministry of Palo Alto / Innvision. We've learned a lot by spending a great deal of time talking to and working with our guests at the meal, who we also get to know on the streets. Ivy is absolutely right about her fictional friend Clarisse. One of the things that hurts people the most is when you turn away from them, ignore them, or pretend they're not there. You may not know what the right thing is to do to HELP a homeless person, but you can look at that person, acknowledge his or her humanity, and say a kind word. Beyond that, there are lots of organizations that have clear ideas of concrete ways to make a difference. In fact, that's one of the top ten things Diana Adams at suggests (click here). 

Through our web site we will compile a list of organizations across the country with which you can get involved either as a volunteer, through donations, or by helping get local and national legislation passed. We'll also offer some very practical tips for what to do when you do encounter homelessness in your community. Tip one. Look at the person and smile!

Wondering if a smile matters? Watch this video trailer of a project that Josh Hayes is working on (you can donate to the project by clicking here).

Five Things You Can Do About Homelessness

Ivy says: There's this guy named Craig Kielburger who was only 12 years old when he started Free the Children, an organization that helps children all over the world. He gave a speech to raise money for freeing children from slavery and said "Being 12 is no excuse for not doing something." You're never too young or too old to make a difference.So maybe you read my story and are wondering what you can do about homelessness, especially homeless kids. Here are five things you can do right now!

  • Ask a parent or teacher or other adult to help you identify a homeless shelter or food program in your community that serves children. Once you know where it is, contact the people running it to see if you can volunteer or if they have other needs. Let them tell you what they need and then you can decide how you can help. They may need food, toys, clothes, money, or volunteer time.
  • Talk to a parent about how to respond when you see someone on the street who you think may be homeless. Many people look away and ignore homeless people. A smile or kind word can mean the world to someone!
  • Contact your local government (city, community, County, Parish) and ask if they have a resource card or list for homeless people. Many communities have special cards or one page flyers with lists of shelters, food programs, and other services. Giving a copy of that to someone who is homeless can help that person get immediate help.
  • Ask your teacher or principal if there's a program where you could help tutor a homeless child. There may be homeless children in your school or a nearby school. Pick your best subject and offer to help!
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the issue of homeless children. Let the people in your community know how you feel about the fact that so many children are homeless!

My Schoolmate is Hungry

Ivy Says: My friend Charlie and his mom just got into a transitional housing program. That means they have a place to stay and lots of support to help them so that they can eventually take good care of themselves. One of the biggest helps is that they get to go to a food pantry once a week and load up on nutritious food. Charlie says there are lots of food pantries out there and I asked him how other kids could find one. He told me about the amazing web site,, where they have a list of places you can get food and all you have to know is your zip code to find one! 

  • Visit the food pantry finder (click here)

For more ideas and to connect with organizations working to bring an end to childhood homelessness, visit the organizations below.

Organizations to Visit on the Web:

One easy way to help people is to know what resources are available in your area. Many communities are instituting a "211" system, a phone number you can call 24 hours a day to find out what resources are available. Find out if you have a 211 in your area by just dialing 211 on your phone. 

AND, through Project Ivy, we're beginning to create maps that show where folks can find shelter, hot meals, bag lunches, groceries and other services. Here's an example map from Project Ivy.


Ivy Says: My name is Ivy, not "kid" or "hey you" or "waif" (ugh.. I hate that word). I LOVE poetry and music, especially Eugenia Orr's opera songs, and there's this one organization called Give Us Your Poor and they created this great video of poetry and music and images about homelessness you should really watch.

Ivy Says: Can you imagine what it feels like to be in a classroom full of kids who have NO idea what I'm going through? When someone invites me to her house, I say I can't go because I don't want to have to explain why I can't invite her to MY house the next time. When the teacher gives us something to take home, like a project board, and says "make sure you keep this in a safe dry place," what am I supposed to do? Golden Gate Park is NOT safe OR dry! The other day the teacher read a book about some kids who had two mommies so that we would understand that there were all kinds of different families. I wish he would read a story about a kid like me, who has NO mommy and no home. Poppy and me are a family too, but I don't think the kids would understand us without a little help. 

Can you imagine a school where almost all the kids are homeless? CBS News recently reported about one school like that, in Las Vegas.

Lesson Plans to Teach Kids about Homelessness

Minnesota Coalition on Homelessness Lesson Plans

The curriculum is segmented into grades kindergarten to third, fourth to sixth, and seventh to ninth. Download the lesson plans appropriate for your students. The Coalition grants unlimited use to the curriculum when it is used for educational purposes.

K-3 Lesson Plans4 - 6 Lesson Plans7 - 9 Lesson Plans
K-3 Lesson Plan 1
K-3 Lesson Plan 2
K-3 Lesson Plan 3
K-3 Lesson Plan 4
K-3 Lesson Plan 5
4-6 Lesson Plan 1
4-6 Lesson Plan 2
4-6 Lesson Plan 3
4-6 Lesson Plan 4
4-6 Lesson Plan 5
4-6 Lesson Plan 6
7-9 Lesson Plan 1
7-9 Lesson Plan 2
7-9 Lesson Plan 3
7-9 Lesson Plan 5
7-9 Lesson Plan 6
7-9 Lesson Plan 7
7-9 Lesson Plan 8
7-9 Lesson Plan 9


Data about Homelessness in the United States:

ReportIvy Says: I can't believe how ignorant people are about homelessness. They think you have to be some old guy with stubble on your chin, drugged out, or crazy to be homeless. Sure, there are some people like that at the shelter where we sometimes get breakfast, but most of the people are NOTHING like that. Look at Poppy! He's NEVER used drugs and he's anything but crazy. OK, sometimes he drives me crazy. When Poppy and I were cleaning up Tosca, the incredible house we got to stay in for a while, I found this Washington Post newspaper story about the top five myths about homelessness. The Orr's never threw ANYTHING away until Poppy and I came along and helped them get things cleaned up. Well, anyway, that newspaper sure had it right! 

Click here to read the Washington Post story about the top five myths about homelessness. 

One of the most significant reports to come out in recent years is called America's Youngest Outcasts by the National Center on Family Homelessness, The report presents the clearest snapshot yet of the 1.5 million children who are homeless each year-where they live and the consequences of their precarious situations. The report documents the extent of child homelessness, child well-being, risk for child homelessness and policy and planning efforts for each state. Recommendations for state and federal action are also included.

Click here to access the report plus lots of other material.

Other Data About Homelessness:

Ivy Says: Here's something I bet you didn't know! A lot of the times when we went for breakfast at the shelter there'd be one table full of guys who had all fought in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan... you know, veterans. Lots of the people who are out on the streets used to be soldiers. Poppy says that it's really sad that people who did so much for our country, risking their lives, could be forgotten by the very people they were trying to protect. Poppy never fought in a war. He's more of an artist than a fighter. Funny, artists and soldiers and little children... not who you'd expect to be homeless.

The Veterans Administration has an ambitious plan in place to end veteran homelessness in ten years but at the moment, many of the men and women on the streets of every-town USA are vets. Here are some resources where you can learn more about and do something about our homeless veterans.

Kids Can Make A DifferenceIvy Says: If you're reading this and you're a kid, and you're wondering if a kid can make a difference in the world, believe me the answer is YES! A lot of people are homeless because of poverty and a lot of poor people are really hungry. You can do a lot, from helping out at a soup kitchen to tutoring homeless children after school to making your own YouTube about homeless people in your neighborhood. Remember I was talking about how hard it was to be a homeless kid in school? Well, here's something you can do! Tell your teacher to get a copy of "Kids Can Make a Difference: Finding Solutions to Hunger."

You can also visit the organization that created that book where you'll find more resources, inspirational stories, and great quarterly newsletters. Click here to visit the Kids Can Make A Difference web site. 

Need more proof that kids can change the world? Click here to visit Free the Children and click here to visit Me To We!

Reach And Teach and Ivy Need You!

Please click here to contact us if you'd like to do any of the following:

  • Write or share a lesson plan about homelessness
  • Provide a link to data on homelessness
  • Tell us about an organization working on homelessness in America
  • Help spread the word about Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco
  • Order classroom sets of Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco at a special teacher discount

Order the Book Now

And finally, if you want to do something to truly help get Ivy's story out there, click here to order copies of Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco right now.

Green America approved