Tag Archives: homelessness

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Maria Powell is an Internal Medicine Resident (R1) at the University of Calgary who graduated from medical school at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2017

 

Admittedly, my social histories used to consist of the same three questions: Do you smoke? Do you drink alcohol? Do you use recreational drugs? I would occasionally ask if the patient worked outside the home, or what they did for income, but the question rarely came up when reviewing consults with resident and staff physicians so I did not routinely ask about it. One thing I am sure of: I never asked whether or not the patient had a home.

During my first two years of medical school, I had lectures on the social determinants of health, and I thought I understood their importance. Yet, it was not until I did a “Health of the Homeless” elective in downtown Toronto that I truly appreciated the impact of the social determinants of health. ...continue reading

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Mei WenMei Wen
University of Toronto
Class of 2019

I wish I could say what I learned in class prepared me for this conversation, but unfortunately, it did not.

Moments after completing an online module at home titled “Health and Homelessness” for the Community, Population & Public Health course as part of the pre-clerkship curriculum at the University of Toronto, I stumbled across who I thought was a homeless child - a small, skinny figure in a hoodie, with a Tim Hortons cup placed in front.

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doanRichard Doan is a Psychiatrist with and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario

 

On December 19, the Globe and Mail reported developments in the of a vibrant young woman in a downtown Toronto drugstore by an also-young, and unknown, female assailant.  As it turns out, the alleged assailant, though well-dressed and well-educated, was homeless and living on the street.  It also appears that she was likely seriously mentally ill.

This story, as sad as it is, is naturally of interest to me, a psychiatrist who works with a street outreach team serving people who are homeless in Toronto.  I never met the alleged assailant, but I wish I had. Then again, it is not certain that any involvement or intervention by our team would have made a difference.

The Globe and Mail reported that the alleged perpetrator habitually wore “an immaculate black suit and dress shirt” and had an MBA ...continue reading

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Ryhana Dawood
Western University
Class of 2016

“I have stage 4 lung cancer. I’m dying and this is where I will spend my last days.”

I listened as a vulnerable, palliative, homeless man told our team about his life in a homeless shelter in Toronto. I watched him and thought of my great aunt who passed away from cancer, surrounded by her loved ones, housed, safe and comfortable. I was left feeling ashamed - how could we allow people to pass in such circumstances? ...continue reading

Richard Doan is a Psychiatrist with and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario

 

In Toronto’s first week of true winter weather, two homeless men died on the street, . He was wearing only jeans, a t-shirt and a hospital identification bracelet.

My street outreach teammates and I saw a slight, older woman who had literally been living in a box for months.* The box was about 6 feet long, 4 feet wide and 3 feet high and was covered by a blue plastic tarp. Her furnishings consisted of a few blankets. The “dwelling” was in an alleyway just behind some shops. The lady was disinterested in any form of housing or treatment and never accessed shelters: she always slept in her box. She repeatedly said that she would soon be moving to a Caribbean island. During a particularly bitter cold spell, we became concerned with her safety, and I completed a form for involuntary psychiatric assessment. The emergency department psychiatrist agreed with me that she likely had chronic schizophrenia, but the client was calm and would not take any medication. She promised the emergency department staff that she would go to a shelter if she was discharged. We made it clear that she was unlikely to do so, but after one night in emergency she was given a subway token to go to a shelter. She disappeared and was lost to follow-up. ...continue reading