My Voice My Community
Homeless 3rd grader opens officials eyes on serious issue

Lisa Hantman's 3rd grade class presents to Philadelphia City Council

NBC Philadelphia covered Lisa Hantman's students' presentation before Philadelphia City Council -- the culmination of a year's research on their Need in Deed project on homelessness. To see the coverage, click here

A 9-year-old boy puts a very real face on a serious problem in Philadelphia -- homelessness.

Daquan Owens-Johnson and his classmates went before City Council Thursday to draw attention to the problem and let officials know the community needs to come together to end it.

"People are begging for homes. I know because I have been homeless and I am once more homeless," the boy said.

In the words of a 3rd grader, he told Philadelphia City Council members what it is like to be homeless. Daquan decided it was important to share his personal story as part of the class' project on homelessness. He told council members "about how it feels to be in a shelter."

Daquan and his classmates at McCall Elementary School have been researching homelessness and discussing ways to make a difference. But for this 9-year-old, it's real life, it's every day.

"[I want to] help those who are homeless and those on the streets, especially children, children," he said.

Teacher Lisa Hantman is blown away by the kids' participation.

"I'm beyond proud of all of them, but particularly Daquan because it was so brave of him to do that," she said. "It took everything in him to say that story out loud to everybody."

And learning about homelessness has been eye opening for all of the third graders.

"It's really sad for me and I really feel angry," said one student.

"I think it's unacceptable for children to be homeless," said another.

But the problem is also motivating the 8- and 9-year-old to find solutions. They even made t-shirts to get their message out.

"The shirt I made is about the homeless and telling people to think about the homeless more," student Raanee Smith said.

"You could open up more shelters and fix abandoned homes for people to live in," Anya Gizis added.

For Daquan, the more awareness about the impact of homelessness on our children, the greater the chances he may some day have a home.

"It would be great to have a house and a room and all that stuff," he said.

"Even though it's a very harsh story, he lives with hope," Ms. Hantman said. "One thing that touches me about Daquan's story is he hadn't told his classmates about his situation. But then when they started studying homelessness, he felt it was important to come forward and let them know that he as homeless."