Revisiting the Real Life Scenarios


We first met John at the beginning of the chapter. John‚Äôs circumstances may have matched with your initial thoughts about: what is homelessness? If you review the Canadian Definition of Homelessness, you will note that his circumstances reflect ‚Äėunsheltered‚Äô homelessness (Gaetz et al., 2012, p. 1). Unsheltered includes people who are absolutely homeless, those living on the street, or in a place that is not intended for human habitation. John has been living between buildings and alleyways in a large urban area, sleeping rough during the day and wandering at night to avoid being hassled by police. If we were to conduct a Point-in-Time count in this area, we would most likely add John to our numbers. This is only the beginning of John‚Äôs story.

To fully understand John and his situation we need to look beyond the surface to understand this person experiencing homelessness.


We need to ask ourselves:

  • What has led him to this place and time?
  • What trauma has he experienced in his life and how does that continue to impact him today?
  • What does John‚Äôs social network look like? Who is in that circle? Friends? Family? Service providers?
  • What social determinants of health have impacted John‚Äôs journey to this place and continue to have a role in his life?

Tasha and Raoul 

Like John, we were introduced to Tasha and Raoul earlier in the chapter. Tasha and Raoul had been living in an old trailer in a rural area. This young couple, according to the Canadian Definition of Homelessness would be considered ‚Äėprovisionally housed‚ÄĚ (Gaetz et al., 2012, p.3). They are technically homeless without permanent shelter. Think about the country in which we live. As winter comes in this living arrangement will not be sustainable with no running water or electricity. This is a time limited, precarious situation. People who live in rural areas are often considered the ‚Äėhidden homeless‚ÄĚ.‚Äô If we were to conduct a Point-in-Time count in the closest community chances are that Tasha and Raoul would be overlooked. They are far from services such as health care, financial aide, and legal support. This is not their home community.


We need to ask ourselves:

  • What event(s) have led them to this place and time?
  • What trauma have they experienced in their lives?
  • Are they socially isolated or do they have a community for support?
    • What are the social determinants of their health? Race? Childhood experiences and development? Access to health services?


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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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