Homelessness Awareness: Trope in the Media

Awareness and campaigns highlighting the issue of homelessness come in many forms. Below I have detailed a book cover, a billboard advertisement, and a digital poster that all work, in different ways and media forms, to raise awareness of the ongoing struggles of the homeless population and encourage viewers to offer their support.

Danielle Steel, 2010

This book cover is for Danielle Steel’s book “A Gift of Hope: Helping the Homeless,” originally published in 2010. It details Steel’s work with the homeless population of San Francisco that she was inspired to participate in after the passing of her son. With this book, she aimed to tell the stories of the individuals that she met and give them a voice. The title font, use of winter weather, and inclusion of a teddy bear stand out on the cover. The title being in a different font that is comparable to an individual’s handwriting makes the book already seem more personable to viewers. It is based on a true story, making the information inside demonstrative of real individuals’ lives, so a handwritten style font may cue audiences to feel that the book is more authentic and close to the author rather than fabricated as fiction would be. Additionally, the use of a winter scene highlights the cold, harshness that the homeless population faces. Placing this snow on a bench, where a homeless person might be forced to sleep, emphasizes the disparities and poor conditions that they are forced to endure. Furthermore, the clear illustration of a teddy bear inside the bag on the cover plays to pathos through involving children. Children are symbolic of innocence and purity in society, so the remnant of a homeless child’s life will tug at viewers’ heartstrings to make them more interested in reading the book and the issue of homelessness in general, especially in the way that it impacts young children.

Denver Rescue Mission, 2008

This billboard is from an advertisement for the Denver Rescue Mission. The idea of the poster is that the issue of homelessness will not be diminished until homeless individuals have places to live. The word “homeless” is filled with images of actual homeless individuals from the Denver area. The organization removed some of the portraits as time passed so that the portraits would eventually spell “home” rather than “homeless.” The message behind this poster can motivate people who pass by to donate to their mission and the cause of homelessness; with the help of funds and community support, Denver can remove more and more citizens from homelessness and into homes. The use of real pictures of Denver’s homeless population utilizes the rhetorical device of pathos; in other words, showing that these are real people in the community that fellow Denver inhabitants can help. Additionally, the changing nature of the poster and its potential to progress works to visually emulate the Denver Rescue Mission’s goal of removing (both in reality and off of the billboard) people from homelessness. This is a direct call to the morality of Denver citizens because they could play a part in removing portraits from the billboard and bringing more people to homes.

Marissa Dehler, 2016

This digital poster was created to raise awareness for homelessness, particularly child homelessness. The creator envisioned it to be posted on various parts of urban spaces. The graphic uses a typeface resembling that of street/pavement markings that would normally signify things such as a no parking zone, turning lane, etc. Instead, this pavement paint says “KIDS DON’T BELONG ON THE STREETS.” Specifically placing this text on an image of pavement with the common pavement marking typeface plays to the rhetorical device logos in that it argues to the logic that these types of warnings are unusual or not meant to be printed on the streets just as children should not be living there. Additionally, placing a crushed crayon box and a cigarette box with broken crayons, a needle, and cigarettes between the text plays to pathos similar to how the book cover did for “A Gift of Hope.” Crayons (especially of the Crayola brand) are an art tool commonly associated with young children, and the fact that they are shown here broken and dirty along with harmful substances emphasizes the positive, nurturing, and imaginative childhood that homeless children are stripped of. Picturing crayons in a cigarette box with substances also shows the lack of a wholesome and resourceful environment that these children are faced with, forcing them to mature at such a young age. All of these elements come together to highlight the disparities and warped maturation that homeless children in particular go through, hopefully encouraging the audience to be a part of changing the statistic shown at the bottom of the graphic.


Works Cited

Adweek Blogs. “Denver Ads Offer a Portrait of Homelessness.” Adweek, 20 Feb. 2008, 


Dehler, Marissa. “Child Homelessness Awareness Campaign.” Behance, 9 Mar. 2016, 


Steel, Danielle. “A Gift of Hope.” Danielle Steel, Penguin Random House,