PI, Dr. Natasha Slesnick, OSU College of Education and Human Ecology The Ohio State University –
Prior studies focused on youth experiencing homelessness have focused on service-connected youth – those in drop-in centers or shelters, but research suggests that most street living homeless youth (90%) do not access services meant to assist them. This study overcame prior gaps in research through the testing of a comprehensive intervention for non-service connected youth that connects youth to services that address substance use, HIV risk and other needs. Homeless youth (n = 79) found in non-service locations, between the ages of 14 to 24 years, were engaged through outreach and linked to services in a strengths-based manner. All youth received six months of advocacy and were assessed at baseline, 3, 6 and 9 months post-baseline. Youth met with their advocate an average of 17 times, indicating a high degree of engagement. More meetings with the advocate were associated with more service use, which was associated with better outcomes at 9 months. Only five youth did not meet with their advocate at least once. As a pilot study, this study confirmed the viability of identifying and engaging non-system connected, continuously homeless youth into services. Youth in the pilot study showed statistically significant improvement on every targeted outcome including housing, substance use, mental/physical health and self-efficacy. A larger clinical trial is expected to begin in the summer of 2019.