180155 A comparison of addiction and transience among street youth: Los Angeles, California, Austin, Texas, and St Louis, Missouri

Monday, October 27, 2008: 3:06 PM

Kristin Ferguson, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Kimberly Bender, PhD , Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Gretchen Heidemann, MSW , School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Sanna Thompson, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Texas, Austin, TX
David Pollio, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Introduction: Generally, homeless “street” youth research has reported findings from single-city studies, with the implicit assumption that these adequately describe the population. Meanwhile, findings suggest that youth in runaway crisis shelters significantly differ across federal regions and transience is critical in the lives of street youth--arguing for systematic attention to these issues. This presentation provides evidence concerning the role of addiction and transience on service-using street youth through comparisons among three disparate urban areas.

Methods: Street youth from Los Angeles (n=50), Austin (n=50) and St. Louis (n=46) were recruited from drop-in shelters, outreach, and street locations using comparable recruitment strategies. Youth were interviewed for addiction (alcohol/substance abuse/dependence) and transience (number of inter-city moves), and cities were compared using chi-squares and ANOVAs.

Results: Each city demonstrated patterns that were significantly different from the other two. Austin was highest in alcohol (54%), drug abuse/dependence (60%) and transience (mean=12.3 moves); St Louis was lowest in all three (14%/19%/.9); while Los Angeles was in between (34%/36%/5.2). Further, each city showed differing patterns for youths' cities of origin, with Austin youth being spread broadly across Texas and nationally, St Louis being primarily from within the city and state, and Los Angeles relatively evenly distributed.

Discussion: Findings strongly affirm the distinct patterns among the three cities and suggest that each serves a differing population. Given that national funding policy assumes population homogeneity (e.g., funding the same service continuum), differences found here suggest the need to examine city populations separately to determine appropriate services.

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss differences in patterns of addiction and transience in street youth among three disparate urban settings; 2. Identify how differences in addiction and transience impact service configurations and needs in specific urban settings; 3. Discuss the potential impact of geographic distribution on street youth across regions.

Keywords: Substance Abuse, Runaways

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have conducted substantial research in the areas of addiction, mental health, homelessness, and services
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.