Primary Sources: Can Mental Health and Housing Services Help Youth Hold Down a Job?

Photograph of a young man reading a computer screen.

We're focusing on education and employment this month at NCFY, so we're reposting some of our favorite articles on those subjects. Here, we revisit a study on how a workforce development model may impact homeless youth.

Adapting the Individual Placement and Support Model with Homeless Young Adults” (abstract). Child and Youth Care Forum, Vol. 41, No. 3 (June 2012).

What it's about: Researchers wanted to test whether the Individual Placement and Support, or IPS, model, an approach to workforce development, helps homeless young adults with mental illness hold down a job. The researchers followed 36 homeless youth ages 18 to 24 for 10 months. Youth had been diagnosed with a mental illnesses in the previous year. Twenty of the youth participated in an IPS program with a drop-in center as well as counseling, housing and other services. The other 16—the control group--were in a program that only had drop-in services.

Why read it: Studies show that many homeless young adults suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, conduct disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. These conditions, combined with lack of stable housing, make it difficult for youth to find and keep a job. Unfortunately, traditional vocational programs do not typically speak to the mental health needs of young adult participants. This study is among the first to look at an evidence-based model that combines employment services with other supports tailored to the needs of homeless young adults with mental illness.

Biggest take away for youth workers: Compared to their peers in the control group, the IPS group was nearly twice as likely to have worked during the 10 months of the study. The researchers say that having access to permanent housing may be one reason IPS youth did better. Other ingredients may have played a role as well. The IPS model has seven principles that guided the researchers’ implementation of the model among homeless young adults:

  1. Any English-speaking homeless young person between 18 and 24 with a diagnosed mental illness who expresses desire to work is eligible.
  2. IPS experts and agency staff meet weekly to discuss participants’ case files and progress in all areas, including mental health.
  3. An employment specialist helps youth get community-based jobs at competitive wages.
  4. Case managers work closely with the state and local public social services agencies to educate youth on the impact that paid employment will have on disability benefits, food stamps and other forms of public assistance.
  5. Within one month of the initial vocational assessment, participants work with the employment specialist on a job search.
  6. Staff provides individualized assistance to working participants for as long as needed.
  7. Staff considers what type of employment participants are interested in and guides them in that direction.

Additional reference: The researchers in this study used the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (PDF, 142KB) to screen homeless young adults for mental illness.

(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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