Interventions for Homeless Young Adults: Outcomes and Implications

Saturday, January 17, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Balconies I, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Symposium Organizer:
Sanna Thompson, PhD, University of Texas at Austin
Few interventions have been developed and tested with homeless young adults (ages 18-24 years). Lack of intervention research with this population is likely due to challenges in engaging these young people in services, retaining them in longitudinal research, and establishing rigorous research designs in community-based settings. However, homelessness young adults warrant considerable attention, as they consistently demonstrate adversities such as low educational attainment, poverty and unemployment, limited social capital or pro-social support systems, criminal justice involvement, high levels of substance abuse and mental illness. At the same time, homeless young people demonstrate innate capacities to survive in harsh street environments with unique abilities to access needed resources. Interventions for homeless young adults, which employ diverse approaches, must be culturally sensitive to address the unique needs of those young people with complex risk and protective factors. Thus, this symposium draws together researchers from various U.S. cities where interventions to homeless youth have been conducted and services examined.

Each study developed and tested a culturally appropriate intervention based on a different perspective:

 (1) Findings of a randomized trial of a skill-building intervention for homeless youth in Colorado will be described. The intervention trained youth to practice mindfulness, with the ultimate goals of drawing their attention to risks on the streets and aiding them in problem solving to avoid victimization. Specific strategies were shown to be particularly beneficial.

(2) Preliminary findings of a randomized trial in Texas will be discussed concerning a strengths-based intervention directed at improving psychological capital and goal attainment among homeless young women; results suggest hope, resiliency, and positive attitudes about the future improved more for experimental group participants than controls.

(3) Results of an intervention to determine the efficacy of using strengths-based outreach to engage substance-using homeless youth into various services in Ohio will be presented. Findings suggest service disconnected youth who experience greater marginalization and problem severity than youth connected to services can be successfully engaged into services through a strengths-based approach.

4) Qualitative results of several focus groups to understand the perceived barriers and facilitators to engagement in shelter services in Texas will be discussed. This study highlights the need for outreach efforts that recognize youths’ desires for self-reliance and frame shelter services as supporting rather than restricting independence.

This symposium brings together four uniquely rigorous intervention/services studies conducted with homeless young adults. Collectively, these presentations will discuss outcomes and practice implications while exemplifying strategies for rigorous intervention and services research with this difficult-to-engage population. Together, these presentations aim to initiate dialogue concerning the critical need for tailored interventions that address risk factors associated with life on the streets, while recognizing the unique strengths of homeless young adults. As the findings of these diverse studies demonstrate positive results in some areas and not in others, they provide knowledge for further development of interventions and services. Only with further research focused on developing, testing, and modifying interventions and services will the goal of streamlined and coordinated systems of care for this vulnerable population be realized.

* noted as presenting author
Mindfulness Intervention with Homeless Youth
Kimberly A. Bender, PhD, University of Denver; Badiah Haffejee, MSW, University of Denver; Nick Schau, MSW, University of Denver; Brandon Hester, BA, University of Denver; Jessica Hathaway, BA, University of Denver; Stephanie Begun, MSW, University of Denver; Anne P. DePrince, PhD, University of Denver
Preliminary Results of an Intervention to Enhance Psychological Capital in Homeless Females
Lynn Rew, EdD, University of Texas at Austin; Sanna Thompson, PhD, University of Texas at Austin; Tara Powell, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Adama Brown, PhD, University of Texas at Austin; Eunjin Seo, MA, University of Texas at Austin
Working with Service Disconnected Homeless Youth: Engaging, Retaining and Linking
Natasha Slesnick, Ohio State University; Brittany Brakenhoff, MA, Ohio State University
Barriers and Facilitators to Use of Shelter Services Among Homeless Youth
Yoonsook Ha, PhD, University of Houston; Sarah Narendorf, PhD, University of Houston; Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, University of Houston; Noel Bezette-Flores, PhD, University of Houston, Downtown
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