Homeless youth are typically defined as a group of adolescents and young adults (ages 12-24) who do not have stable dwellings, but instead live on the streets, in shelters or abandoned buildings, or in other unstable situations (e.g., doubling up with friends). Given the myriad of hardships, stressors, and marginalization faced by youth as they navigate life on the streets, it is encouraging that researchers have begun examining well-being among youth experiencing homelessness. However, the few studies examining well-being among homeless youth have produced inconsistent results. Furthermore, little is known about the components of well-being that are both relevant to and valued by homeless youth, as well as which factors predict differences in well-being among youth. This study examined psychological well-being and its associations with demographic characteristics (race, gender, and sexual orientation), intrapersonal factors (mental health, optimism, and self-esteem), and social-contextual factors (social support, sense of community, and empowerment) among 100 homeless youth utilizing services in Portland, Oregon. Quantitative results indicated that the intrapersonal and social-contextual variables were all significantly associated with psychological well-being among homeless youth at the bivariate level. However, in a full hierarchical regression model containing all study variables, only self-esteem and psychological distress were significant predictors of well-being. Thematic analysis of qualitative data revealed 11 categories of factors that impact youth’s well-being, including Self Care, Social Support, and Personal Outlook. Collectively, findings have practical implications for program development at homeless youth service centers while also informing future research in this area.
By Katracia Stewart, 2018