202325 Definitions of youth homelessness: A review of the peer-reviewed literature S/A

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Andrea M. Parriott, MPH , Epidemiology, Univesity of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Colette Auerswald, MD, MS , UC, Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program, UC, Berkeley School of Public Health, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Research on homeless, runaway, and street youth is hampered by lack of a standard definition of youth homelessness. We reviewed the definitions in the peer-reviewed literature.

We conducted a search in PubMed, using MeSH heading “homeless youth”, and in Psych Info, using keywords “homeless” and “adolescent.” We included articles reporting original research regarding homeless adolescents and young adults conducted in the United States or Canada that were published in peer-reviewed journals in English or French from 1996 to 2007. We excluded articles that only addressed youth living with homeless families.

We identified 193 articles. From these, we identified ten non-exclusive definitions of homeless youth: type of shelter used such as homeless shelters or outdoors (80 articles, 41%); meeting subsistence needs via the street economy, e.g. panhandling, prostitution, drug dealing, etc. (11 articles, 6%); not living with, or lacking support or supervision from parents or guardians (44 articles, 23%); duration of homeless episode (42 articles, 22%); prior homelessness in youth who are currently domiciled (42 articles, 22%); unstable or impermanent living situations (25 articles, 13%); self-identification as “homeless” or a related term (8 articles, 4%); presence at “hangouts” frequented by homeless individuals (2 articles, 1%); no definition specified (76 articles, 39%).

Fifteen articles (8%) used a definition that did not fit into any of the categories above.

There is a need for a standardized, meaningful definition of youth homelessness for policy and research. Its absence impedes comparison of results across studies and the ability to make conclusions about homeless youth.

Learning Objectives:
Compare different definitions of youth homelessness used in the peer reviewed literature. Explain the need for a standardized, meaningful definition of youth homelessness.

Keywords: Homelessness, Youth

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a MPH level epidemiologist, and a current student in an epidemiology Ph.D. program. I have experience working on studies of homeless youth.
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.