Primary Sources: Why Do Homeless Youth Choose to Visit Drop-In Centers?

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Photograph of diverse young people standing together.

Predictors of Drop-in Center Attendance among Substance-Abusing Homeless Adolescents,” Social Work Research, Vol. 35, No. 1, March 2011.

What it's about: The authors studied 82 homeless 15-20-year-olds who were using drugs or alcohol and who had access to a drop-in center in Columbus, Ohio. The researchers wanted to know what factors would predict whether these homeless young people would use the drop-in center.

Why read it: Surveys have documented the demographics and behaviors of homeless youth, but no research has studied why they choose to visit or not to visit drop-in centers. Understanding why they seek services may help youth shelters attract and support more young people.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: Needs like food, shelter, or clothing did not appear to have any influence on a youth’s decision to visit the center, nor did length of homelessness. Depressed young people, and those using alcohol less often, were more likely to use the center’s services. The authors suggest that alcohol use might draw unwanted concern and attention to youth, discouraging their attendance.  They further suggest training youth service providers to offer more emotional support in addition to offering food and shelter, and meeting other physical needs.

Additional reference:The National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth (NCFY) and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Centers (RHYTTAC) both offer trainings of interest to youth service providers who want to offer emotional support to homeless young people.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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