Lesson 2: Strategies for Change

Caring Minds (Grades 7-12) > Housing, Homelessness and Poverty > Lesson 2: Strategies for Change

Lesson 2: Strategies for Change

Starter: What Can be Done? (10-15 minutes)

  • Discuss with students their experiences with poverty and homelessness. Questions to consider:
  • Have you ever done something to help someone less fortunate than you? If so, what?
  • What types of things do we do in our community to help those less fortunate?


  • Explain to the students that Sound Times is a member-run consumer/survivor centre in downtown Toronto. Sound Times gets funding from the Ontario government to provide support based on respect and peer relationships. Services which it offers include: advocacy, education, social justice work, recreation and harm reduction.
  • Divide the students into small groups. Provide each group with one of the following quotes from Sound Times members:
    • “Bad community housing can be a trigger spot for those dealing with mental health and/or addictions”
    • “Shelters are surrounded by drug addicts that don’t care about others. I don’t want to go from a hostel with crack heads to another place equally as bad. That is why I want housing: to get out of this”
    • “Going from having people look after you to relying 100% on yourself changes your whole mentality and can cause a lot of stress”
    • “Some people don’t know how to cook, that leads to mental illness as well. Then you are back in the hospital if you are not eating right”
    • “ [The] problem of living alone is that there is a risk of isolating yourself”
  • Ask each group to read the community focus group quotes and answer the following questions:
    • What is the quote in reference to? What is it talking about?
    • What does the quote say and or imply about the relationship between housing and mental health? What are the issues?
  • Bring the class back together and discuss findings. Have each group read their quote out loud and then share their answers with the class.

Discussion: Housing Issues (5 minutes)

  • Explain to the students that if people living in poverty have housing, it is often inadequate. Many people end up in community living situations where they are sharing a house with other people who have similar challenges to getting by. Often these people are dealing with their own addictions and/or mental health issues and do not have the energy to be supportive of other residents.
  • Community housing sometimes has tenants who are drug addicts and dealers prey on the locations.
  • Some housing is bug-infested and unsafe.
  • In addition to housing issues there is often not sufficient outside support available to help mental health patients in the community. Social workers can be over-worked, shelters are crowded, and social support programs and addiction services are underfunded. The transition from being “in care” to living on one’s own can be a very negative or scary experience.

Activity 1: Real-Life Strategies That Worked (20 minutes)

  • Despite the current situation faced by many psychiatric survivors who live below the poverty line and on the streets, there are stories from the past of former patients coming together to help each other out. Since deinstitutionalization, a variety of survivor/consumer organizations and community initiatives have worked to support those in need. The resources for this activity focus on two of these: Vancouver’s Mental Patients’ Association (MPA) and Toronto’s On Our Own (RESOURCE 2A).
  • Divide the students into small groups and assign each group an article. Have the students read the article and answer the following questions:
    • What is the name of the organization/group mentioned in the article?
    • What type of service did it provide?
    • What were the benefits of the program for people with mental health issues? For the broader community?
    • What were the challenges?
    • How did the organization impact the lives of former patients in the community?
    • Bring the students back together to discuss their answers with the rest of the class.

Activity 2: Support Strategies (15 minutes)

  • Brainstorm with students about what can be done to reduce poverty and increase housing, given the current situation with poverty and housing in our country.
  • Ask the following questions:
    • What can be done to help people in poverty with mental health difficulties who are living on the streets or in inadequate housing? Think long term solutions. Think about the historical sections of this lesson plan. What can we learn from the past?

Extension Activity: Helping Out

  • Become involved with a local charity to raise money for a shelter or have the students come up with their own class project.

Closure (5-10 minutes)

  • Have students think about and write down what they can do to help people with mental health problems who are living on the streets or in poverty.
  • What could you do as an individual to support these people?
  • What could you do as a class to support these people?
  • Have those who want to share their ideas with the class.


2A Real Life Strategies that Worked

Additional Resources