Real Life Scenarios

As you learn about homelessness and the complex ways in which it is experienced, we encourage you to begin with these real life composite scenarios. Take a moment here to pause and consider these people’s experiences. 


Arin is a 22- year-old male who has been “couch surfing” between family members for a number of years. He has a low self-image, causing him to hear every comment made to him as a criticism and to be argumentative to the point of never conceding that there is a different interpretation of events. He has significant mood swings from severe depression to violent rage. He lives in a constant state of anxiety. He sleeps very little and paces throughout the night.  His extended family has been extremely supportive, taking turns having Arin live with them. They are all exhausted and when he trashed his brother’s apartment over a mild dispute about household chores Arin left in a rage and refuses to see anyone in the family because, in his eyes, they are all out to get him. He is now living on the street and fighting attempts by family members to get him to see a psychiatrist for a diagnosis. The family doctor believes Arin may have a borderline personality disorder; however, he needs a formal diagnosis to qualify for assisted living arrangements supported by a local community mental health agency. The M-Heart team (a joint team of mental health workers and police officers) has been checking in with him twice a week. They are having very little success in convincing Arin to follow through with appointments set up with a psychiatrist. He is consistently a “no show” and the team, although willing to get him there, cannot find him the day of the appointment.  


Tanzia is a 45-year-old female currently living in an encampment in a large city. She is working with a local agency to find housing. In the past 15 years she has lived in 23 different apartments/rooming houses with a large number of different roommates. When she is drug-free she has a sunny disposition and positive outlook on finding work. She is very social. She has worked in the food service industry off and on. Unfortunately, due to many reasons, she has a history of reverting to substance misuse. When she is using, she has inconsistent moods, steals from her roommates and from her employers to buy her drugs. She becomes sexually aggressive. Subsequently she is asked to leave her housing and reverts to the streets. She has been bounced from one agency to the next and has not found the support she needs to break this pattern. Tanzia has experienced 3 overdoses in the last 12 months where friends have revived her with Naloxone. She worries that her luck is running out. 

Reflection Questions

With these scenarios fresh in your mind, consider the reflection questions that follow. You may wish to record your answers before moving on to the next section. We will return to the scenarios again at the end of the chapter. 

Reflection Questions

  • What preconceived notions about mental health and homelessness did you come to this course with?
  • What do you think the relationship is between mental health and addictions?  Do all folks who have mental health issues have addiction issues and vice versa?
  • What similarities and differences do you see between Arin and Tanzia’s experiences?
  • How could Arin and Tanzia be supported to improve their mental well-being?



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Understanding Homelessness in Canada Copyright © 2022 by Kristy Buccieri, James Davy, Cyndi Gilmer, and Nicole Whitmore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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