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Homeless youth need more than treatment for substance abuse, study says
Date:5/12/2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A new study of homeless youth suggests that treating substance abuse and mental health problems may not be enough to help get teens off the streets.

Instead, researchers found that creating more opportunities for work, education and medical care were the most important factors in reducing homelessness.

A study of 180 homeless youth in New Mexico found that those with the most social stability, such as those who attended school more often or those who had a job, were most likely to reduce their homeless days over a six-month period.

While youth who had a history of abuse or mental health problems were more likely to become homeless, those same characteristics did not predict teens and young adults getting off the street six months later.

It looks like the predictors of homelessness might be different than the predictors of exiting homelessness. So that means prevention targets should be different from intervention targets, said Natasha Slesnick, lead author of the study and associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University.

When youre homeless and youre entrenched in the homeless lifestyle, without housing and without stabilization, its hard to get out of it. Its hard to get homeless youth off of alcohol and drugs when theyre still trying to get their basic needs met. And a lot of the kids use alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with being homeless, she said.

The research was published recently in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. The study was conducted between 2001 and 2005 and is one of the first to look at the predictors of homelessness in youth, as most of the research on the homeless focuses on adults. Research focused on 180 homeless youth between 14 and 22 years old who accessed New Mexico drop-in centers.

Those youth who were homeless for at least three months participated in follow-up interviews three and six months after beginnin
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Contact: Natasha Slesnick
Slesnick.5@osu.edu
614-247-8469
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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