Well-off people never think they could end up homeless, however the characters in these books did not start out poor. All it takes is the death of a parent or other traumatic experience to derail the most unlikely family. Practice compassion, because you never know the story of the kid sitting next to you.
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor
Georgina’s dad has left, leaving her mom, brother and her without any money. They have no choice, but to live in a car, until her mom can save enough money for rent. When Georgina sees a flyer for a lost dog offering a $500 reward, she hatches a plan to steal a dog in order to return it and get the reward money.
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
When Jackson is 6-years-old his family moves into their minivan for 14 weeks, while his parents save money to get a deposit on an apartment. It’s during this time that Crenshaw shows up. Now Jackson is in 5th grade and the minivan life is threatening to happen once again. Crenshaw returns and Jackson tries to come to terms with his apparent need for an imaginary friend.
Almost Home by Joan Bauer
Sugar is a 6th grader whose had her dose of challenges. Most of it stems from her dead-beat dad who has a gambling problem. He shows up then disappears again. Though she loves Sugar, her mom can no longer pay the mortgage and her mental health begins a slow decline. They end up in a homeless shelter until her mom is hospitalized and Sugar moves in with a foster family.
No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen
Felix’s mom keeps losing her job and finally they have no choice but to move into a borrowed VW van. Though Felix doesn’t like it, he becomes good at lying so he won’t get taken from his mom. Through it all he cherishes every moment he gets to spend at his friend’s house, especially to be near his most valued commodity: a toilet.
Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno
Cora, her mom, and mentally disabled sister have been on unsteady ground since her father died. They’ve moved a lot, making school a challenge. When the shelter closes, they find a temporary arrangement with her mom’s childhood friend, Willa. Cora likes the stability at Willa’s, but her mom, feeling judged, is ready to move on.
Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Deja and her family live in a shelter in New York City. The shelter is in a nice neighborhood and she loves her new school. Her teacher decides to do a unit about family, home and community and includes the 9/11 event in the discussion. When she brings it up to her dad, he becomes very upset. Eventually, she makes the connection between 9/11, her dad’s health, and her family’s homelessness.
Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Gage and Arianna lost both parents too early. Since then they have been raised by their mom’s best friend, Janna. Now Gage is 19 and he’s tired of following Janna’s rules, but he promised his mom he and Ari would always stay together. When he decides to leave, he takes Ari with him. The problem is that he doesn’t have an apartment, so they both end up having to couch surf and live in a shelter.
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
Early’s dad, a librarian, gets into book collecting to help supplement his meager income. Suddenly, he disappears and their apartment is ransacked. Unable to pay the rent, her mom takes Early and her brother to a homeless shelter. While trying to make the most of her situation, she does a little detective work to try and find what happened to her dad.
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Betty is the worst bully you could ever dream up. When she is suspected of throwing a rock that permanently damages a classmate’s eye, she tells a whopper of a lie. She blames it on a homeless WW1 veteran, Toby. Then Betty goes missing and suspicion points to Toby. Annabelle believes Toby is innocent and decides to let him hide out in her barn.