The self-perceptions and life experiences of young homeless people vary significantly by race, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. The findings underscore the need for a more tailored approach to youth homelessness intervention and prevention programs.
UCSF researchers surveyed 205 white and African American youth in San Francisco who had been homeless in the prior six months, and discovered two groups who told starkly different stories about life on the streets and how they ended up there.
"During the course of the study it became clear that while these two groups of homeless youth occupied the same geographic spaces, they seemed to inhabit very different worlds," said senior study author Colette Auerswald, MD, MS, an associate professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine specialist at UCSF Children's Hospital.
The study is currently published online by the journal "Social Science and Medicine" and is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.12.030. It will appear in an upcoming print edition of the journal.
A combination of ethnographic interviews and epidemiological surveys was used to collect data about issues related to family, housing status, self-identification, street survival strategies, service utilization, and drug use.
The researchers found that the majority of white homeless youth in San Francisco had come from other parts of California and the United States. The African Americans were all born and raised in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
"Our findings showed the African American youth come from Bay Area communities that are in decline with limited opportunities for young people and their families. The resulting dysfunction and lack of resources to support them at home drive them to the streets," said Benjamin Hickler, the study's first author and a P
|Contact: Kate Schoen|
University of California - San Francisco