Predictors of Homelessness Among Street Living Youth

Natasha Slesnick, Suzanne Bartle-Haring, Pushpanjali Dashora, Min Ju Kang and Erin Aukward

April 2008

While few studies have identified predictors of exiting homelessness among adults, even fewer studies have attempted to identify these predictors among homeless youth. This study explored predictors of change in homelessness among 180 homeless youth between the ages of 14 and 22, recruited through an urban drop-in center. All youth were assessed at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months. The sample included 118 males and the reported ethnicity included Latino (n = 54), Anglo (n = 73), Native American (n = 24), African American (n = 6) and mixed ethnicity or “other” (n = 23).  Four distinct patterns of change in homelessness were identified among youth:  (1) fairly low rates of homelessness at each follow-up point; (2) mid-range at baseline, increased rates at 3 months, and a sharp decline at 6-months; (3) high rates of homelessness at baseline and low rates at each follow-up point; and (4) consistently homeless across time. These patterns of change were most strongly predicted by social connections and engagement in HIV risk behaviors. The findings from this study suggest that developing trust and linkages between homeless youth and service providers may be a more powerful immediate target of intervention than targeting child abuse issues, substance use, and mental health problems.

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