Effective Interventions for Homeless Youth

Astrid M. Altena, Sonja N. Brilleslijper-Kater and Judith R.L.M. Wolf

June 2010

To date, there has not been clear evidence regarding interventions that are effective in addressing the specific needs of homeless youth. A systematic and comprehensive international review on effective interventions for homeless youth is presented. This study seeks to provide an accurate and complete picture of effective interventions for homeless youth by collecting, summarizing, categorizing, and evaluating quantitative studies (i.e., those that have assessed treatment outcomes). There is no compelling evidence that specific interventions are effective for homeless youth, owing to moderate study quality and the small number of intervention studies. Conclusions that can be drawn from the studies are limited by the heterogeneity of interventions, participants, methods, and outcome measures. Many interventions focused on reduction of substance abuse, whereas other important outcomes, such as quality of life, have received little attention. No study received a quality rating of good, and four studies were rated as fair. Most convincing, but still marginal, were results of interventions based on cognitive–behavioral approaches, which revealed some positive results on psychological measures. More methodologically sound research is needed to determine what specific interventions are beneficial for subgroups of homeless youth. Implications for future research are discussed.

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