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J Adolesc Health. 1999 Jun;24(6):449-58.

Service utilization among homeless and runaway youth in Los Angeles, California: rates and reasons.

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Division of Adolescent Medicine, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, California, USA.



To describe the service utilization patterns of homeless and runaway youth in a "service-rich" area of Los Angeles, California; identify demographic and other correlates of utilization; and contextualize the findings with qualitative data.


During Phase 1 of this study, survey data were collected from an ethnically diverse sample of 296 youth aged 13-23 years, recruited from both service and natural "hang-out" sites using systematic sampling methods. During Phase 2, qualitative data were collected from 46 youth of varying ethnicities and lengths of time homeless.


Drop-in centers and shelters were the most commonly used services (reported by 78% and 40%, respectively). Other services were used less frequently [e.g., medical services (28%), substance abuse treatment (10%) and mental health services (9%)]. Utilization rates differed by ethnicity, length of time in Los Angeles, and city of first homeless episode (Los Angeles versus all others). Shelter use was strongly associated with use of all other services. Despite youths' generally positive reactions to services, barriers were described including rules perceived to be restrictive, and concerns youth had about confidentiality and mandated reporting. Youth suggested improvements including more targeted services, more long-term services, revised age restrictions, and more and/or better job training and transitional services to get them off the streets.


Because shelters and drop-in centers act as gateways to other services and offer intervention potential for these hard-to-reach youth, it is vital that we understand the perceived barriers to service utilization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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