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Am J Prev Med. 2010 Jun;38(6):637-45. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.02.017.

Effective interventions for homeless youth: a systematic review.

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Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands.



To date, there has not been clear evidence regarding interventions that are effective in addressing the specific needs of homeless youth. A systematic and comprehensive international review on effective interventions for homeless youth is presented. This study seeks to provide an accurate and complete picture of effective interventions for homeless youth by collecting, summarizing, categorizing, and evaluating quantitative studies (i.e., those that have assessed treatment outcomes). EVIDENCE ACQUISTION: The following databases were searched in 2008: PsycINFO, ERIC, MEDLINE, and Cochrane were searched from 1985 through 2008 using specific key words: interventions and programs, with homeless youth (s), homeless adolescents, street youth (s), runaways and throwaways. In addition, references of key articles were searched by hand. Eleven studies met pre-established inclusion criteria. To determine study quality, a set of operational parameters was formulated to rate each study as either good, fair, or poor.


There is no compelling evidence that specific interventions are effective for homeless youth, owing to moderate study quality and the small number of intervention studies. Conclusions that can be drawn from the studies are limited by the heterogeneity of interventions, participants, methods, and outcome measures. Many interventions focused on reduction of substance abuse, whereas other important outcomes, such as quality of life, have received little attention. No study received a quality rating of good, and four studies were rated as fair. Most convincing, but still marginal, were results of interventions based on cognitive-behavioral approaches, which revealed some positive results on psychological measures.


More methodologically sound research is needed to determine what specific interventions are beneficial for subgroups of homeless youth. Implications for future research are discussed.

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