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The Process of Youth Homelessness: A Qualitative Longitudinal Cohort Study

Research Staff

Dr. Paula Mayock (PI)

About the Project

Young people who experience homelessness warrant particular attention because of the specific legislation that affect them, their differing access to health services and the highly vulnerable position they hold by virtue of their age. 'Homelessness' is notoriously difficult to define not least because of the array of conditions and circumstances that may characterise the absence of a stable and secure place of residence. It is useful, therefore, to think of homelessness as a continuum, ranging from 'rooflessness' or sleeping rough, to living in bed and breakfast accommodation and hostels, to an inability to leave unsatisfactory housing conditions. The term "out of home" is frequently applied to young homeless individuals because of the diverse and fluid circumstances that may characterise their situation over time.
Becoming homeless is a process rather than an event and there are usually several (interlinked) reasons — or more accurately, perhaps, a sequence of life events and experiences — that lead to homelessness at some level. Each individual is likely to have a unique experience of the path to homelessness and experiences thereafter will also vary and fluctuate over time. Pathways to homelessness in the case of young people are, however, poorly understood in an Irish context. Although there is a relatively large body of literature on 'at risk' youth, comparatively little is known about the experiences of young people who are either chronically or intermittently without permanent shelter and who may be largely or partly dependent upon the street economy as a means of acquiring everyday survival needs (e.g. food, clothing and shelter).

What does the research focus on?

This study investigates the experience of youth homelessness based on young people's accounts of becoming and being homeless. A core aim is to conduct a detailed examination of the process of youth homelessness and to enhance current understanding of trajectories into, through and out of homelessness. The study will identify structural and psychological barriers to service access and utilisation among homeless youth and make policy recommendations related to service provision, early intervention and the prevention of negative health outcomes.

What does the research involve?

The study's conceptual focus on the process of youth homelessness means that it is necessary to examine the homeless experience over time. This is a longitudinal qualitative cohort study and will be conducted in two phases. Criteria for inclusion include: a) being between 12-22 years and; b) being homeless or in insecure accommodation. Forty young people were recruited with the co-operation of statutory and voluntary agencies with responsibility for providing services and interventions to young people who are without a home. The recruitment strategy aimed to include relevant diversity across key variables including age, gender and geographical location.

Phase I: Baseline interviews were conducted with 40 homeless young people, based on the life history model, which prioritises young people's accounts and experiences, both past and present.

Phase II: Follow-up life history interviews are ongoing at present.

Timescale and final products of the research

Phase I of this study (now complete) was funded by the Office of the Minister for Children. The key findings of this report was launched by the Office of the Minister for Children on 12th December 2006. Phase II was funded by the Homeless Agency. Phase III is ongoing at present.

Understanding Youth_Homelessness in Dublin City (PDF 504 kB)

Last updated 15 March 2010 by The Children′s Research Centre (Email).