Learning Objectives

In this chapter, you are invited to consider how individuals who experience homelessness may be thought of as a population, and the ways in which public health measures can be enacted to promote their health and wellness. Our discussion is directed by three key questions that guide this chapter’s learning objectives.


  1. We begin by asking, ‚ÄúWhy are people who experience homelessness at higher risk during a pandemic?‚ÄĚ You may recall hearing about COVID-19 outbreaks at shelters in your city or other regions. In this section, you will learn why the outbreaks occurred, how other outbreaks such as Tuberculosis and bed bugs are common in shelter settings, and what can be done to reduce the risks of illness among people experiencing homelessness during a pandemic.


  1. Following the discussion about pandemics, our attention shifts to explore the question, ‚ÄúHow is drug use a public health issue?‚ÄĚ It is noteworthy that not every individual who experiences homelessness engages in drug use. However, there is a significant overlap in street involvement, drug use, and homelessness that requires this issue be considered. In this section, you are encouraged to think about drug use at the population level, rather than as a personal issue.


  1. We conclude this chapter with a discussion of a foundational public health strategy by asking, ‚ÄúWhy is a harm reduction approach necessary?‚ÄĚ While some may consider harm reduction to be controversial, you are encouraged to come to this section, and the material contained with it, with an open mind. The benefits of harm reduction are well documented and support the need for it as a key public health strategy.


As you move through this chapter it is beneficial to keep in mind that adopting a public health lens requires us to think about issues such as vulnerability to a pandemic and substance use as being rooted in the organization of society, rather than as an outcome of individual behaviour or choices. Read on to learn more about how homelessness is a public health issue and what measures can be put in place to improve well-being at a population level.


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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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