Abstract: Understanding the Impact of Access Centers Among Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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46P Understanding the Impact of Access Centers Among Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Eric Rice, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Nicole Thompson, MSW, Research Associate, Lens Co
Laura Onasch-Vera, MSW, Project Specialist, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Erin Casey, LCSW, Director of Programs, My Friend's Place, Los Angeles, CA
Toni Cooper, Data and Impact Coordinator, My Friend's Place, Los Angeles, CA
Frank McAlpin, DSW, LMSW, Program Manager, Los Angeles LGBT Center, Los Angeles, CA
Mischa DiBattiste, BA, Youth CES Regional Manager, Safe Place for Youth, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose: Access centers are safe havens for young adults experiencing homelessness (YAEH). We examine access centers within a positive youth development (PYD) framework to explore the role social connections with staff have on YAEH’s psychosocial development and stability. There are two study objectives guiding this analysis: 1) examine YAEH connected to these access centers who also have a positive relationship with an adult staff; and 2) the extent to which these relationships are associated with engagement in services that promote long-term stability and self-sufficiency.

Methods: A sample of 647 YAEH was collected between May 2017 and November 2018 at three access centers in Los Angeles. All YAEH accessing services during recruitment days were invited to participate. A single recruiter was used throughout the study to avoid enrolling YAEH more than once. YAEH were enrolled as part of a HIV prevention intervention study; only data from baseline assessments are presented here. Youth self-reported access center use (i.e., frequency and duration), connections to access center staff, and social service program engagement (i.e. employment and therapeutic services). Frequency distributions and multivariable logistic regression models were conducted with SAS 9.4.

Results: Over a third of YAEH reported attending the access center for six months or more and 28.4% reported using that center on a daily basis. Twenty-two percent used therapeutic services and 43.3% used employment services at the access centers. Two-thirds of YAEH reported having “developed at least one relationship with a supportive and positive staff at an agency that I attend.” Young people attending for six months or more were significantly more likely to report having a positive staff relationship (OR=1.79, p<.001) as were YAEH who attended daily (OR=1.90, p<.01). YAEH who reported having a positive relationship with a staff member were more likely to report using therapy (OR=2.16, p<.01), controlling for access center engagement (frequency and duration) and demographics. Moreover, YAEH who reported daily access use were more likely to report therapy services (OR=1.62, p<.05) as were young people who attended for six months or more (OR=1.68, p<.05), controlling for staff relationships and demographics. Multivariable models of employment services likewise revealed that having a positive relationship with staff (OR=2.12, p<.01), daily attendance (OR=1.60, p<.05) and six months or longer of attendance (OR=1.50, p<.05) were all associated with increased odds of receiving employment services.

Conclusions and Implications: Exploring access centers within a PYD framework is helpful, as there is minimal research addressing the role access centers have in assisting YAEH in exiting homelessness and sustaining self-sufficiency. Positive adult staff play an integral part in the experiences YAEH have in access center spaces, helping link youth to services that promote well-being and self-sufficiency.