Primary Sources: Can Geographic Information Systems Help Transitioning Youth Find Housing?

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Image of computer generated maps stacked on top of each other.

β€œUsing GIS to Enhance Programs Serving Emancipated Youth Leaving Foster Care” (abstract), Evaluation and Program Planning, Vol. 35, No. 1 (2012).

What it’s about: Researchers at the University of South Florida wanted to see if computer mapping could help youth workers find appropriate housing for youth about to live on their own. Using geographic information systems, or GIS, technology to present information visually, the authors identified low-cost, bus-accessible housing options that would support the educational goals and parenting needs of transitioning youth.

Why read it: Many transitional and independent living programs recognize the importance of stable housing for youth transitioning to adulthood. But programs often don't have a uniform method for finding safe and affordable places for youth to live. Government agencies and service providers are increasingly using computer mapping to help solve social problems like this one, and youth workers may be hearing more about this technology in the future.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: The study found that only a small number of low-rent properties in Florida's Hillsborough County, the area they studied, were suitable for young people once basic safety, educational, transportation and service needs were considered. Youth raising a child were left with even fewer options.

Generally, computer mapping showed promise for helping youth workers find housing options in a large area without pounding the pavement. GIS can also encourage young people to get involved in their own housing decisions because maps can be adjusted based on the youth's feedback, the authors write. In addition, they say, federal, state and local agencies can use mapping to identify areas with a shortage of transition-friendly housing and to work together to address these gaps.

Additional reference: For more information on how mapping can benefit youth workers and tips for getting started, read software provider Esri's white paper about GIS for human and social service organizations (PDF, 370KB).

(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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