Skip to main content
Select Language
Defenders for Human Rights
Léonie Couture

Léonie Couture Women’s Health and Security

Select Language

GRADE LEVELS = 7 to 12  /  SUGGESTED TIME = Three 60 minute class periods

Preparatory Set

Léonie Couture founded Herstreet, a safe non-judgemental drop-in and living space for homeless women and women in difficulty in Montréal. Herstreet creates a supportive community where women, who have experienced violence, great physical pain, emotional turmoil, abandonment, and exclusion, can reconnect with themselves and others. They are welcomed, given a sense of belonging, respected and helped to learn to recognize their full potential and gain power in their lives.

  1. View the video La rue des Femmes (in French only) as an introduction to Herstreet and its approach, OR
    read Herstreet’s mission to get an understanding of the work that the organization does.
  2. Read some of the women’s stories, as available through the Homeless Hub.
  3. Discuss the approach to homeless women and women in difficulty used by Herstreet.

Activity 1

Create a two part visual essay to explore the lack of relationships and disconnectedness of homeless women and the resources needed for them to become empowered and reconnect with others to begin their healing process. Ensure that students include a personal reflective piece on Herstreet’s philosophy and mission.

  1. For an understanding of this relationship:
    1. Students can read more about the issue by exploring the Herstreet website.
    2. Review the facts and ‘in their words’ available from the Canadian Women’s Foundation on:
    3. Review the definitions of ‘what is abuse’ as provided by the Ottawa Children’s Aid Society (PDF).
    4. Review the infographic of the State of Homelessness in Canada 2016 report (page 5).
  2. Reflection questions to discuss as a group:
    • Why is there homelessness in Canada?
    • When you see a homeless person, what do you think?
    • What are some defining factors of homeless women?
  3. Are there other community-based organizations in Canada that have a similar philosophy and mission as Herstreet?

Activity 2

  1. Homelessness is a long-standing societal issue and one that has been redefined over the years. There are many YouTube videos that students could review and critique as part of the overall reflection on homelessness. We have reviewed the following short video clips for your use.

    Homelessness in Canadian Society, Ryerson University
    Pascal Murphy, Instructor on Homelessness and Society, offers an excellent review of the homelessness in Canada over the last four decades.

    Young and Homeless
    The story of a young homeless woman who also attends university in Guelph, ON.

    The Way Home
    A short video made to depict the struggles that homeless youth face in Canada and the movement of support behind them.

    Without a Roof
    A 30 minute documentary on the stories and experiences of homeless people in Toronto. (The testimonies start at 2:50).

    Canada’s Invisible People
    A series of three video’s interviewing Canada’s homeless, presented at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness.

  2. Ask students to reflect on the following questions in small groups, leading to a larger class discussion on the issue of homelessness in Canada. To what extent do the videos explore the following challenges and do they offer solutions?
    1. Homelessness as a result of personal failure?
    2. Homelessness as a result of societal failure?
    3. Do the current societal structures in place provide sufficient support for the homeless?
    4. Do the current societal structures in place provide sufficient support for homeless women?

Activity 3

  1. Ask students to take a look at their own community in terms of homelessness, societal structures in place, shelters for women and children, and the city/town’s policies and supports in place to ensure the homeless’ basic needs are being met.
  2. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation’s poverty initiative, encourages classrooms across the country to find the following statistics and upload these to an interactive map on Imagineaction.
    1. What is the population of your community? [numbered value]
    2. How many people in your community are living in poverty? [numbered or percentage value]
    3. How many children in your community are living in poverty? [numbered or percentage value]
    4. How many food banks are there in your community? [numbered value]
    5. What is the unemployment rate in your community? [percentage value]
    6. How many shelters are there in your community that provide temporary housing for those who do not have permanent housing? [numbered or percentage value]
  3. Ask students to develop an awareness raising campaign on the issue of homelessness with a view to increasing the public’s knowledge and decreasing judgements.
    1. This could be in the form of a video, including statistics, commentary, testimonials, including a walk through one’s community.
    2. This could be expressed in a letter to the mayor and city counsellors, requesting an opportunity to make a presentation at an upcoming city council meeting.
    3. Identifying one community-based organization that supports homelessness or homeless women, and supporting their ongoing campaign, or developing one with them.

Culminating Activity – From Reflection to Action

Linking to the Moments in Time section of this resource, under the theme of this lesson plan ‘Women’s Health and Security’:

  1. Ask students to research one of these moments advancing women’s health and security.
  2. Ask students to write a short opinion piece that includes the following in their reflection:
    1. Media and other events surrounding that particular period and issue (e.g. 1956 was the year the Canadian government passed the Female Employees Equal Pay Act, making discrimination in wages on account of gender against the law and guaranteeing women the right to be paid the same wage as men for similar work.)
    2. How does this Moment in Time relate to the issue of women’s health and security?
    3. Was this particular human rights moment in time perceived as an advancement or a setback at the time, when you view it from the lens of personal security? Please explain.
    4. Today, would that same moment be perceived as an advancement or a setback? Please explain.

Extension Activity 1

  1. Ask students to review each article in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as they pertain to the health and safety of children and youth.
  2. Ask students to write short social media messages to share on their networks, increasing the awareness of the Rights of the Child and the health and safety of children and youth.

Extension Activity 2

The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016. A research paper.

  1. Ask your students to review this report, and to pay particular attention to the section on youth homelessness (page 44).
  2. Ask your students to develop infographics that offer information on this population.
  3. Encourage your students to share these infographics through social media.