Toward Understanding Homelessness: The 2007 National Symposium on Homelessness Research. Characteristics of Help-Seeking Street Youth and Non-Street Youth. Future Research Directions and Considerations

09/01/2007

Our understanding of homeless youth and their needs will benefit from research studies that utilize large representative samples of both help-seeking and non-help seeking individuals who reside in a variety of locations, including shelters, friends homes and street locations. In addition, prevention and intervention programs can be made more effective and appropriate when guided by findings from longitudinal research studies and other research efforts that identify a timeline of occurrence of problematic issues in the lives of homeless youth. The identification of problematic issues occurring before youths become homeless will assist prevention programs in better identifying risk factors contributing to street youth status, while the identification of problematic issues occurring after youths become homeless will help intervention and support programs for street youth to better meet the needs of their target population.

In making policy recommendations, researchers must take into consideration the potential differences in local laws that impact the lives and rights of homeless adolescent research participants. These include differences in the age of majority as defined by each state; local laws and regulations regarding loitering and squatting; and local laws and regulations regarding the potential penalties for runaway behavior, which can vary across states (National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, 2003).

Future research questions that may help to expand on the findings of the current study as well as address recent issues mentioned by callers to the hotline, include:

  • What factors lead a youth to characterize him- or herself as runaway, homeless, or throwaway?
  • What is the timeline of occurrence of problematic issues in the lives of homeless and runaway youth?
  • Do youth who repeatedly run away report a difference in type, severity, or number of problematic issues that occur before their first run as compared to before subsequent runs?
Appendix A
General Categories and Subcategories of Crisis Issues
Recorded in National Runaway Switchboard Call Logs for Youth Crisis Callers, 20002005.
General Category Subcategories
Family dynamics Problems with parents/guardians
Conflict with family/household rules
Blended/extended family
Separation/divorce
Custody
Problem with siblings
Teen parenting
Death of friend / family member
Move
Mental health issues of the youth Depression
Crime Victim/Witness
Psychological/behavioral problem
Eating disorder
Self-injury
Mental health issues of friends or family members Psychological/behavioral problem
Suicidality of the youth Youth suicidal
Youth prior suicide attempt
Suicidality of friends or family members Friend/family member suicidal
Alcohol or drug use by the youth Alcohol or drug use (general)
Alcohol or drug use by family members Alcohol or drug use (general)
Alcohol or drug use by friends or peers Alcohol or drug use (general)
Involvement of youth or family member
in substance abuse treatment program
Youth or family member in S.A. treatment (general)
Physical health issues of the youth HIV/AIDS
Pregnancy
Physically challenged
Illness (general)
Physical health issues of family members Illness (general)
Physical abuse or assault By parent
By parents partner/stepparent
By other family member
Domestic violence
By boyfriend/girlfriend
By non-relative
Physical abuse or assault perpetrated by the youth Youth physically assaulting others
Sexual abuse or assault By parent
By parents partner/stepparent
By other family member
Rape
By boyfriend/girlfriend
By non-relative
Sexual abuse or assault perpetrated by the youth Youth sexually assaulting others
Neglect Neglect (general)
Emotional or verbal abuse Emotional or verbal abuse (general)
Involvement of the youth in the judicial system Probation/parole
Crime involvement
Involvement of family members in the judicial system Family member in jail
Economic issues Poverty
General employment issues
Unemployed
Underemployed
Lost job due to housing issue
Lack of affordable housing
Problems with youth or family services Protective service agency (CPS, DYFS, etc.)
Residential/foster/group home
Runaway shelter
Transitional/independent living
Lack of available services
Peer or social issues Problems involving friends or acquaintances
Problems involving relationship
Gang issues
Cult involvement
Adventure/independence
Internet relationship
Bullying
School or education issues Grades
Truancy (skipping school)
Suspension/expulsion
Dropping out
Problems with teachers
Problems with other students
Home schooling
Enrollment issues
Issues related to gay, lesbian, bisexual,
transgender or questioning (GLBTQ) status
Verbal/physical abuse
Harassment
Coming out
Sexual identity
Questioning
Issues related to transportation Lack of transportation
Youth is stranded
Youth is stranded by sales crew
Appendix B
Frequency Analysis Results for General Categories and Subcategories of Risk Issues Reported
by Youth Crisis Callers to the National Runaway Switchboard, 20002005.
General categories and subcategories  Total Sample (Street and Non-Street Youth)
(N=30,266)
Street Youth Subgroup Status
Runaways
(N=11,299)
Throwaways
(N=1,598)
Homeless
(N =1,968)
n (Percent) n (Percent) n (Percent) n (Percent)
Family dynamics 22508 (74.4%) 9016 (79.8%) 1459 (91.3%) 1165 (59.2%)
Problems with parents/guardians 17635 (58.3%) 7024 (62.2%) 1248 (78.1%) 825 (41.9%)
Conflict with family or household rules 9652 (31.9%) 4497 (39.8%) 572 (35.8%) 361 (18.3%)
Blended/extended family 3501 (11.6%) 1328 (11.8%) 214 (13.4%) 161 (8.2%)
Separation/divorce 3700 (12.2%) 1484 (13.1%) 179 (11.2%) 81 (4.1%)
Custody 2153 (7.1%) 902 (8.0%) 130 (8.1%) 63 (3.2%)
Problem with siblings 2261 (7.5%) 665 (5.9%) 98 (6.1%) 81 (4.1%)
Teen parenting 1566 (5.2%) 414 (3.7%) 125 (7.8%) 175 (8.9%)
Death of friend / family member 862 (2.8%) 291 (2.6%) 37 (2.3%) 78 (4.0%)
Move 1307 (4.3%) 367 (3.2%) 55 (3.4%) 132 (6.7%)
 
Mental health issues of the youth 3741 (12.4%) 940 (8.3%) 74 (4.6%) 105 (5.3%)
Depression 2763 (9.1%) 554 (4.9%) 53 (3.3%) 58 (2.9%)
Crime victim/witness 180 (0.6%) 65 (0.6%) 5 (0.3%) 11 (0.6%)
Psychological/behavioral problem 1281 (4.2%) 433 (3.8%) 27 (1.7%) 53 (2.7%)
Eating disorder 179 (0.6%) 16 (0.1%) 2 (0.1%) 2 (0.1%)
Self-injury 30 (0.1%) 4 (Non-significant) 1 (0.1%) 0 (0.0%)
 
Suicidality of the youth 1204 (4.0%) 232 (2.1%) 21 (1.3%) 16 (0.8%)
Youth suicidal 1194 (3.9%) 230 (2.0%) 21 (1.3%) 16 (0.8%)
Youth prior suicide attempt 1173 (3.9%) 226 (2.0%) 19 (1.2%) 16 (0.8%)
 
Mental health issues of friends/family 719 (2.4%) 244 (2.2%) 41 (2.6%) 25 (1.3%)
Psychological/behavioral problem (same as above) (same as above) (same as above) (same as above)
 
Suicidality of friends/family 152 (0.5%) 32 (0.3%) 1 (0.1%) 2 (0.1%)
Friend/family member suicidal (same as above) (same as above) (same as above) (same as above)
 
Peer or social issues 8459 (27.9%) 3508 (31.0%) 212 (13.3%) 474 (24.1%)
Friends/acquaintance problems 3316 (11.0%) 1224 (10.8%) 87 (5.4%) 160 (8.1%)
Relationship problems 3615 (11.9%) 1240 (11.0%) 84 (5.3%) 196 (10.0%)
Gang issues 195 (0.6%) 79 (0.7%) 9 (0.6%) 10 (0.5%)
Cult involvement 17 (0.1%) 3 (Non-significant) 0 (0.0%) 1 (0.1%)
Adventure/independence 3732 (12.3%) 2150 (19.0%) 81 (5.1%) 236 (12.0%)
Internet relationship 3649 (12.1%) 2115 (18.7%) 79 (4.9%) 234 (11.9%)
Bullying 9 (Non-significant) 1 (Non-significant) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%)
 
School or education issues 4231 (14.0%) 1918 (17.0%) 177 (11.1%) 154 (7.8%)
Grades 1567 (5.2%) 500 (4.4%) 38 (2.4%) 9 (0.5%)
Truancy (skipping school) 1024 (3.4%) 622 (5.5%) 53 (3.3%) 8 (0.4%)
Suspension/expulsion 483 (1.6%) 212 (1.9%) 16 (1.0%) 9 (0.5%)
Dropping out 1499 (5.0%) 836 (7.4%) 88 (5.5%) 130 (6.6%)
Problems with teachers 503 (1.7%) 140 (1.2%) 8 (0.5%) 5 (0.3%)
Problems with other students 26 (0.1%) 3 (Non-significant) 0 (0.0%) 1 (0.1%)
Home schooling 4 (Non-significant) 1 (Non-significant) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%)
Enrollment issues 23 (0.1%) 8 (0.1%) 1 (0.1%) 1 (0.1%)
 
Economic issues 1022 (3.4%) 318 (2.8%) 63 (3.9%) 214 (10.9%)
Poverty 912 (3.0%) 294 (2.6%) 59 (3.7%) 185 (9.4%)
General employment issues 48 (0.2%) 11 (0.1%) 3 (0.2%) 3 (0.2%)
Unemployed 56 (0.2%) 16 (0.1%) 5 (0.3%) 14 (0.7%)
Underemployed 13 (Non-significant) 1 (Non-significant) 0 (0.0%) 1 (0.1%)
Lost job due to housing issue 6 (Non-significant) 1 (Non-significant) 1 (0.1%) 0 (0.0%)
Lack of affordable housing 55 (0.2%) 7 (0.1%) 1 (0.1%) 26 (1.3%)
 
Physical health of the youth 2245 (7.4%) 678 (6.0%) 98 (6.1%) 164 (8.3%)
HIV/AIDS 133 (0.4%) 27 (0.2%) 3 (0.2%) 5 (0.3%)
Pregnancy 1620 (5.4%) 501 (4.4%) 80 (5.0%) 120 (6.1%)
Physically challenged 63 (0.2%) 17 (0.2%) 1 (0.1%) 6 (0.3%)
Illness (general) 498 (1.6%) 148 (1.3%) 16 (1.0%) 38 (1.9%)

 

Physical health of the family 493 (1.6%) 147 (1.3%) 16 (1.0%) 36 (1.8%)
Illness (general) (same as above) (same as above) (same as above) (same as above)
 
Issues related to GLBTQ status 845 (2.8%) 178 (1.6%) 45 (2.8%) 50 (2.5%)
Verbal/physical abuse (No data available) (No data available) (No data available) (No data available)
Harassment 222 (0.7%) 52 (0.5%) 9 (0.6%) 18 (0.9%)
Coming out 520 (1.7%) 120 (1.1%) 39 (2.4%) 24 (1.2%)
Sexual identity 487 (1.6%) 89 (0.8%) 21 (1.3%) 27 (1.4%)
Questioning 6 (Non-significant) 1 (Non-significant) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%)
 
Alcohol/drug use by the youth (general) 1557 (5.1%) 756 (6.7%) 65 (4.1%) 75 (3.8%)
 
Alcohol/drug use by friends/peers (general) 362 (1.2%) 135 (1.2%) 16 (1.0%) 17 (0.9%)
 
Alcohol/drug use by family (general) 1752 (5.8%) 682 (6.0%) 96 (6.0%) 77 (3.9%)
 
Youth/family member in substance abuse treatment program (general) 119 (0.4%) 53 (0.5%) 7 (0.4%) 10 (0.5%)
 
Physical abuse/assault 4799 (15.9%) 2142 (19.0%) 221 (13.8%) 132 (6.7%)
By parent 3404 (11.2%) 1584 (14.0%) 185 (11.6%) 48 (2.4%)
By parents partner/stepparent 827 (2.7%) 413 (3.7%) 31 (1.9%) 12 (0.6%)
By other family member 451 (1.5%) 172 (1.5%) 18 (1.1%) 8 (0.4%)
Domestic violence 528 (1.7%) 178 (1.6%) 9 (0.6%) 41 (2.1%)
By boyfriend/girlfriend 376 (1.2%) 126 (1.1%) 6 (0.4%) 43 (2.2%)
By non-relative 5 (Non-significant) 3 (Non-significant) 0 (0.0%) 0 (0.0%)
 
Physical abuse or assault perpetrated by the youth (general) 165 (0.5%) 59 (0.5%) 9 (0.6%) 7 (0.4%)
Sexual abuse or assault 1400 (4.6%) 560 (5.0%) 36 (2.3%) 38 (1.9%)
By parent 414 (1.4%) 182 (1.6%) 10 (0.6%) 3 (0.2%)
By parents partner/stepparent 339 (1.1%) 155 (1.4%) 11 (0.7%) 5 (0.3%)
By other family member 239 (0.8%) 78 (0.7%) 5 (0.3%) 4 (0.2%)
By boyfriend/girlfriend 109 (0.4%) 35 (0.3%) 1 (0.1%) 5 (0.3%)
By non-relative 11 (Non-significant) 2 (Non-significant) 0 (0.0%) 1 (0.1%)
Rape 460 (1.5%) 170 (1.5%) 11 (0.7%) 22 (1.1%)
 
Sexual abuse or assault perpetrated by the youth (general) 26 (0.1%) 8 (0.1%) 2 (0.1%) 1 (0.1%)
 
Neglect (general) 1849 (6.1%) 571 (5.1%) 393 (24.6%) 86 (4.4%)
 
Emotional or verbal abuse (general) 3228 (10.7%) 1151 (10.2%) 190 (11.9%) 60 (3.0%)
 
Involvement of the youth in judicial system 1374 (4.5%) 826 (7.3%) 50 (3.1%) 62 (3.2%)
Probation/parole 828 (2.7%) 528 (4.7%) 30 (1.9%) 20 (1.0%)
Crime involvement 746 (2.5%) 430 (3.8%) 28 (1.8%) 51 (2.6%)
 
Involvement of family in judicial system 392 (1.3%) 175 (1.5%) 18 (1.1%) 31 (1.6%)
Family member in jail (same as above) (same as above) (same as above) (same as above)
 
Problems with youth or family services 6359 (21.0%) 2927 (25.9%) 509 (31.9%) 438 (22.3%)
Protective service agency (CPS, DYFS, etc.) 2649 (8.8%) 1215 (10.8%) 236 (14.8%) 59 (3.0%)
Residential/foster/group home 2102 (6.9%) 971 (8.6%) 159 (9.9%) 130 (6.6%)
Runaway shelter 3707 (12.2%) 1729 (15.3%) 341 (21.3%) 345 (17.5%)
Transitional/independent living 5 (Non-significant) 1 (Non-significant) 1 (0.1%) 0 (0.0%)
Lack of available services 33 (0.1%) 15 (0.1%) 1 (0.1%) 4 (0.2%)
 
Issues related to transportation 3246 (10.7%) 2036 (18.0%) 95 (5.9%) 373 (19.0%)
Lack of transportation 3210 (10.6%) 2022 (17.9%) 94 (5.9%) 370 (18.8%)
Youth is stranded 47 (0.2%) 24 (0.2%) 2 (0.1%) 7 (0.4%)
Youth is stranded by sales crew 13 (Non-significant) 1 (Non-significant) 0 (0.0%) 1 (0.1%)

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