Book Reviews Subscribe Faith-filled Family Links for Learners Ask a Franciscan Editorial Entertainment Watch Saints for Our Lives Contents

Resource Page for Teachers

Written by Lynn and Bob Gillen
May 1998
St. Anthony Messenger

Curriculum Connections -

This classroom resource guide will support curriculum in several areas:

    • Religion - Christian life-styles; charity in action
    • Social Studies - economic development; self-help for the poor; social conditions in the United States and worldwide

Idea One - Appreciating the Importance of an Adequate Home

A. Glossary of Basic Terms

Your students may find it helpful first to create a glossary of terms relating to this month’s article. Definitions can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited below.

Terms to define will include:



Corporal works of mercy

Koinonia Farm

Substandard housing

"Sweat equity"


B. Statistics on Homelessness and Substandard Housing

Your students will better understand the impact of Habitat for Humanity if they research statistics on the need for housing among the poor of this country as well as the rest of the world.

Just one example: On any given night, 11,000 people are homeless on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. This does not include people in substandard housing. These 11,000 sleep in abandoned buildings, in cars, under bridges, in makeshift huts or on the street. See the site for further information on the city of Atlanta.

This situation is repeated every night in many cities across the United States. Using Internet search engines, your students can research statistics for their own city or town. Also, they can talk to local officials or housing advocates responsible for gathering data or for assisting the poor and homeless.

See also, the site of the International Union of Gospel Missions, for further statistics on the homeless and the poor throughout the world.

C. Solutions to the Problem

Substandard Housing

Habitat for Humanity sets out to build decent housing for those poor people who live in run-down houses, shacks and other forms of substandard housing. This month’s article highlights Habitat’s mission to replace inadequate housing with decent homes for the poor. (See .) Habitat officials focus on people who have the ability to help themselves. One man, Millard Fuller, began an individual effort that has become a worldwide movement embraced by thousands of volunteers. Can your students identify other individuals who have done something similar in other situations of social need?

The Homeless Who are Mentally Ill or Drug Abusers

Often people suffer from illnesses or addictions so strong they cannot help themselves. These people end up homeless, either because they have no resources with which to maintain a home, or because they have been institutionalized and then released, with nowhere to go but the street.

Organizations other than Habitat for Humanity work to help these people. Dorothy Day, for example, was instrumental in starting The Catholic Worker, with its urban soup kitchens and resource centers for the homeless. See for an unofficial Catholic Worker site, which will direct you to centers in your local area. Many churches and urban municipalities also set up shelters and programs for the homeless. You can find them in your local phone book, by asking at your parish, searching on the Internet or perhaps by inquiring at your local newspaper office.

Idea Two - How Can a Teenager Help?

A. A Sense of Mission

In the Gospels, Jesus did not hedge in telling his followers how important it was to practice works of mercy. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells us when we act in kindness and concern for another human being, we do it for him as well. This Gospel passage is the basis for the corporal works of mercy. Search the Internet under "corporal works of mercy" for sources listing all seven corporal works.

On a broader basis, see, for example, for reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the encyclicals (the written teachings) of the popes of the Church. Here your students can learn more about the social mission of the Catholic Church, its efforts to promote human values and dignity and its concern for the poor of the world.

B. Teenage Leadership

Teenagers and college students have been strong volunteer supporters for the various Habitat for Humanity projects throughout the world. By contacting a local Habitat office, your students may be able to reach other teenagers who have worked on a Habitat project. They can interview these teens, by note-taking or with a video camera, for presentation to the class or discussion group. Or the Habitat office may allow access to a teenager who now lives in a Habitat home, for interview.

Your students may wish to research additional outlets for volunteer efforts.

  • The Longacre Farm in Pennsylvania runs a summer program, the Longacre Leadership Program, for teenagers. This program stresses self-development and cultivates community leadership. Habitat for Humanity is one of a number of programs that Longacre participates in each summer. See
  • The "Take a Bite Out of Crime" crime-prevention program, at, offers suggestions on how teenagers can have an impact on adverse social conditions. The site promotes 20 practical ideas that teens can implement to do something right.

C. Designing a House like the Habitat Homes

As a group project, your students may enjoy designing, or finding a design for, a small home that would provide adequate housing for a fictitious family. They can create a sample family with a teenager and perhaps younger siblings, then determine what kind of housing would be needed for this family to live comfortably. They should also consider ways in which to make the home continually manageable for the families even after the construction is complete, for example, ways to make the home energy-efficient. For research, your students can use these resources:

  • Magazines such as Architectural Digest, This Old House and Old-House Journal.
  • Books such as Bob Vila’s This Old House, or any of the many house plan books available in libraries and bookstores.
  • Some students may even have access to computer software for house plan design, which would allow them to design their sample home through to the blueprint stage.

As part of the design process, your students can discuss what they take for granted in their own homes as they go about a normal day. What do they have that a homeless teen does not have? What is a teenager living in a substandard home missing? Direct the students to include these elements in their plan designs. They can photocopy their chosen plan design, enlarge it and label/identify housing features they want for their fictitious family.

D. The Cost of Housing

A major part of Habitat for Humanity’s purpose is to build low-cost housing. Volunteer labor and donated supplies contribute to keeping costs low. Your students may want to take their design project further by researching the value of these services and donations. They can call a local builder, or contact a contractor who does work for their church or school. Using their suggested design, or identifying a similar design built by the local contractor, they can ask what percentage of total cost is the value of labor in building the home, and what percent is the cost of materials? This can give them a greater appreciation for the work of Habitat. It will also give them a deeper appreciation for the value of the "sweat equity" contributed by each Habitat owner.


Lynn and Bob Gillen are the authors of this online teacher’s resource and have been writing together for 13 years. Their work includes a past article in St. Anthony Messenger, as well as articles for publications in the music and entertainment industry. In addition to writing this resource guide for the past year, the Gillens have also created a yet-to-be-published teacher’s study guide for CBS’s weekly television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.


Further Online Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives. - The New York Times - The Los Angeles Times - Time magazine - CNN - MSNBC - This site will take you to a number of online publications. - The Associated Press - The Chicago Tribune - People magazine The Washington Post - The Miami Herald - The Close Up Foundation


Further Print Resources

If I Were a Carpenter: Twenty Years of Habitat for Humanity, Frye Gaillard, John F. Blair Publ., Winston-Salem, 1996.

This Old House, Bob Vila, Little Brown, Boston, 1980.

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ask The Wise Man  | The Bible: Light to My Path  | Book Reviews  | Entertainment Watch
Editorial  | Editor’s Message  | Faith-filled Family  | Links for Learners
Saints for Our Lives  | Web Catholic  | Back Issues

Return to

Paid Advertisement
Ads contrary to Catholic teachings should be reported to our webmaster. Include ad link.

An Web Site from the Franciscans and
Franciscan Media     ©1996-2016 Copyright