Methods: 731 youth (Mage = 21.8, SD = 2.2, 25.1% female) accessing services at three drop-in centers in Los Angeles, California participated in the study. Surveys were completed at baseline, 1-month, and 3-months later. Path models examined the direct effect of positive relationships with adult staff on service use at the 3-month follow-up, and the indirect effect of service knowledge (assessed at the 1-month follow-up).
Results: The direct effect model showed that positive staff relationships at baseline were significantly associated with number of services used at the 3-month follow-up (aIRR = 1.24, 95% CI: 1.00, 1.54). Positive staff relationships were also associated with greater service knowledge at 1-month (b = 0.93, p < 0.001), which in turn was associated with greater service use at 3-months (IRR = 1.15, 95% CI: 1.04, 1.28). The indirect effect of service knowledge was significant (b = 0.13, p = 0.02), suggesting that the association between positive staff relationships and service use was completely mediated by service knowledge.
Conclusions and Implications: The current study adds to the literature by demonstrating that positive relationships with staff lead to increased service use by increasing youths’ knowledge and efficacy to access services. Efforts should be made to develop positive relationships with YEH in order to engage them in essential services needed to exit homelessness.