258476 Homeless emerging adults: Perspectives on supportive housing – S/A

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tiffany Ryan, MSW , School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Sanna Thompson, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Texas, Austin, TX

Homeless young adults often experience barriers to stable housing. Faced with current housing options that require sobriety, employment, no criminal history, and a lengthy time commitment, supportive housing is often not feasible or desired. Given limited research on housing options for homeless young people, this study sought to query perceptions of housing needs and suggestions for service options.


This mixed-method study included 30 homeless young adults seeking services at a non-profit drop-in center. Semi-structured, quantitative and qualitative interviews queried participant's history of homelessness, use of services, and perceptions of housing needs and service options. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using phenomenological methods.


Factors associated with housing utilization were not necessarily related to homeless issues, but rather normal developmental issues. Several themes were identified: positive personal and programmatic interactions with housing staff, peer support as more important than housing, and emerging adulthood oscillation between the freedom of homelessness and the safety of housing. Youth oscillated between their desire for support and acknowledgement of housing benefits versus independence and the benefits of homelessness. This indecision keeps them from making long term commitments to housing programs.


Housing programs that identify services specifically for “emerging adults” and emphasize independent decision-making and flexible support by staff would likely be most effective; however, it appears that institutional housing programs are undesirable for many homeless youth; however they continue to use informal street outreach services. Informal services allow them to keep their independence, but provide access to supportive services and relationships.

Learning Areas:
Administration, management, leadership
Program planning
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss factors associated with homeless emerging adults housing service utilization. Assess the utility and cultural competence of homeless youth housing programs.

Keywords: Homeless, Housing

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a PhD student that has worked with and researched homeless youth extensively.
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.