199105 Technology as an underutilized tool for providing health services and support to street youth

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 1:30 PM

Kimberly Bender, PhD , Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Kristin Ferguson, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
David Pollio, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Sanna Thompson, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Texas, Austin, TX
Jennifer McClendon, MSW , Washington University, St Louis, MO
Purpose: Homeless youth often rely on formal services and informal support to cope with life on the streets. No available studies have examined how technology connects homeless youth to resources, which is the purpose of this study.

Methods: A mixed-methods, cross-sectional study of 100 homeless youth (age 18-24) from Los Angeles (n=50) and Denver (n=50) utilized convenience sampling to recruit youth from shelters, drop-in centers and street locations. Youth were interviewed concerning technology, including use of email, Internet, and social networking websites. Open-ended questions explored whom youth communicate with via these types of technology, where they access technology, and the purpose of using technology. Content analysis of qualitative responses was conducted to develop detailed themes regarding how youth use technology.

Results: Ninety-two percent of youth reported using technology weekly - 41% used technology daily. Youth reported using Internet 4.6, email 3.8, and social networking websites 3.8 days/week. More frequent technology use was associated with greater peer support and overall social support. Youth communicated primarily with friends (81%) and family (62%) and less often with employers (21%) and service providers (4%). Youth generally used technology to communicate with peers, for entertainment, or to search for resources.

Implications: Technology use is common among homeless youth who seek support from friends and family. Youth search for resources using the Internet; however communication with employers and service providers is limited. Advertising services on-line, creating agency memberships on social networks, and communicating via email may improve outreach efforts and staff-client contact after services are initiated.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the extent of homeless youths’ current technology use 2. Explain why, how, and for what purposes homeless youth use technology 3. Identify strategies for using technology in order to reach homeless youth and provide on-going health services

Keywords: Access and Services, Homeless

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a PhD in Psychology and Social Work, and have conducted research and published extensively on the topic of youth and adult homelessness.
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.