142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

“I'm not homeless, I'm houseless”: Self-identification of being homeless and accessing shelter/housing services

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 : 11:10 AM - 11:30 AM

Hailey Winetrobe, MPH, CHES , School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Harmony Rhoades, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Eric Rice, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Norweeta Milburn, PhD , Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA Nathanson Family Resilience Center, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Los Angeles, CA
Background:  Little is known about homeless youth (HY) self-identifying as homeless and their associated characteristics.  Anecdotally, many HY may not identify as homeless because of the attached stigma and their fluid living situation.  Among homeless adults, there is an inverse relationship between identifying as homeless and using services. 

Methods:  As part of a longitudinal trend study, HY were recruited from two drop-in centers in Los Angeles.  These analyses use one wave of data collected between November 2012-February 2013, N=425.  Univariable analyses examined homeless youths’ demographic characteristics, homelessness characteristics, and lifetime experiences in association with identifying as homeless.  Variables significant at p<0.05 in the univariable analyses, and demographic control variables, were included in the multivariable analysis.

Results:  Fifty-one percent of HY self-identified as homeless.  In a multivariable logistic regression model, HY who were current travelers were 51% as likely ([95% CI: 0.28, 0.83], p<0.01) to identify as homeless.  HY who have injected drugs in their lifetimes were 70% as likely ([95% CI: 0.16, 0.58], p<0.001) to identify as homeless, and HY who identify as Black compared to their White peers were 58% as likely ([95% CI: 0.21, 0.83], p<0.05) to identify as homeless.  However, HY who self-rated their overall health as “fair” or “poor” were 2.4 times as likely ([95% CI: 1.3, 4.6], p<0.01) to identify as homeless.  Additional multivariable analysis revealed that those youth self-identifying as homeless were over 2 times as likely ([95% CI: 1.49, 3.63], p<0.001) to report accessing shelter/housing services in the past month.  Older HY were 13% as likely ([95% CI: 0.78, 0.97], p<0.05) and Black ([95% CI: 1.06, 3.67], p<0.05), other race ([95% CI: 1.20, 9.38], p<0.05), and mixed race ([95% CI: 1.21, 4.32], p<0.05) HY were 2.0, 3.4, and 2.3 times as likely, respectively compared to their White peers, to report accessing shelter/housing services.  

Conclusions: HY are a vulnerable population, and whether they are identifying as “homeless” or not may impact their overall wellbeing.  Almost half of HY accessing drop-in centers do not identify as homeless; and those who do not identify as homeless are less likely to access shelter/housing services.  HY who identify as homeless report poor health and may need increased access to mental and physical healthcare.  Further research, including qualitative interviews, should investigate why HY do and do not identify as homeless.

Learning Areas:

Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify homeless youths’ characteristics that are associated with youth identifying as homeless. Describe homeless youths’ characteristics that are associated with youth accessing shelter/housing services.

Keyword(s): Homelessness, Youth

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked as a health educator and researcher with homeless youth for the past five years. I am the Project Specialist on a NIMH-funded R01 concerning the social networks and HIV risk behaviors of homeless youth in Los Angeles.
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.