1 INVISIBLE no more Creating opportunities for youth who are homeless Derrick M. Gordon, Ph.D. and Bronwyn A. Hunter, Ph.D. The Consultation Center Yale University School of Medicine 389 Whitney Ave., New Haven CT 06511
2 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 2 Special thanks to the Center for Children s Advocacy and Partnership for Strong Communities for their collaboration and support of this work and the contents of this report. This work was made possible through the generous support of the Tow Foundation, the Melville Charitable Trust, Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, the Partnership for Strong Communities, and the American Savings Foundation. This report would not have been possible without the generous support and consultation from Alicia Woodsby of the Partnership for Strong Communities and Stacey Violante Cote of the Center for Children s Advocacy. Many thanks for your valiant support in moving this work forward. Many thanks to the following interviewers and agencies: Kids in Crisis New Haven Home Recovery Sound Community Services The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, Inc True Colors Youth Continuum, Inc Almanda Powell Ashleigh Eubanks Danielle Cohen James Baker Kathy Grega Krista Stepansky Sarah McGarry Sheila Kelly Stephanie Milfort Tracy Choomack Veronica Cruz Raycean Wright
3 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 3 Executive Summary This report used a convenient and snowball sample of young people experiencing housing insecurity. A total of 98 young people were interviewed in Bridgeport, lower Fairfield County, Hartford, New Haven, and New London. These young people completed structured and open-ended interviews about their experiences across several domains, including basic demographic information, education, housing, financial, family, peer, criminal justice, mental health, physical health, substance use, trauma, and personal functioning. In addition to structured interviews, a select group of young people completed semi-structured interviews that sought to identify the lived experiences of these young people over the past six months. Key informant and focus group interviews were also completed with service providers, Connecticut state agency representatives, and advocates who work with housing insecure young people. These structured interviews sought to identify and document the perspectives of providers who have experience addressing young people s individual and structural needs. Key observations from the completed structured interviews include: 52 (54.6%) females, 41 (42.3%) males, and 3 (3.1%) transgender respondents completed the interviews; 43 (49%) African American, 22 (25%) Mixed race, 21 (24%) Caucasian, 1 (1%), and 1 (1%) American Indian/Native American; 33 (35%) were of Hispanic/Latino descent; Respondents were (SD = 2.47) years (14-24 years); 75 (77%) identified as heterosexual and 22 (23%) identified as either bisexual, gay, lesbian, or not sure; 82 (86%) were born in the United States; 32 (35%) completed the 12 th grade, 24 (26%) completed the 11 th grade; 25 (27%) received special education services at school; 29 (32%) dropped out of school; 10 (12%) reported that their school told them they could no longer attend; 63 (66%) were unemployed and 28 (26%) were employed part-time; Over 60% of the young people reported that their average income was between $0 and $4,499 or less than $100 per week;
4 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 4 About ½ of the young people were raised by their mother and ¼ were raised by both their mother and father; About ½ of the young people reported family contact with the Department of Children and Families (DCF); 40 (41%) reported being in their current living situation for less than 3 months; 66 (70%) reported moving two times or more in the past year; Most of the young people reported having tried cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana; ¼ of the young people reported considering suicide over the last year; The modal number of traumatic experiences endorsed was 5; Several youth reported that they had traded sex for money (N = 7; 7.1%), a place to stay (N = 8; 8.2%); and drugs or alcohol (N = 4; 4.1%); 83 (89%) of the young people were sexually active with an average of 5.6 sexual partners; 23 (23.5%) of the youth first experienced sexual intercourse at age 12 or under; 16 (17%) reported having a FWSN (Family with Service Needs) petition filed against them; 47 (50%) were arrested at least once in their lifetime; 36 (39%) reported having been incarcerated in jail, prison, juvenile detention or residential facility; 56 (57%) received food stamps. Key informants and focus group participants reported that: Working with housing insecure youth is challenging. Multiple factors were associated with housing insecurity, including generational dysfunction, substance use, involvement with the judicial and/or child welfare system, mental health challenges, and a family history of housing insecurity. Populations seen as especially vulnerable to housing insecurity include youth who are LGBT, trafficked, juvenile justice involved, child welfare involved, and young men and boys of color. There is a lack of available safe housing options for young people in crisis. They called for: o Increased affordable housing stock; o Increased alignment in supports across systems; o Changes in policies that impact access to services for young people;
5 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 5 o Increased need for best practice models; o More training and coordination at Connecticut state agency, service provider, and advocate levels; and o Crisis housing options for young people across the state. They recommended: o Additional evaluation and research to better understand the wants and experiences of housing insecure young people; o A formal planning process to address the unique needs of housing insecure young people; o Creating services and systems for youth that are separate from the adult system; o More prevention services and supports located in the communities that these young people represent; and o Increasing Connecticut s awareness of housing insecurity among young people.
6 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 6 Contents Executive Summary... 3 Background... 7 Method... 9 Measures Demographics Education Family of Origin Personal Family Planning Housing Substance Use Mental Health Suicide Trauma Perceived Stress Self Esteem Personality Sexual Health Court and Criminal Justice History Families with Service Needs (FWSN) Criminal Justice/Delinquency Social Service Benefits Service Utilization Social Support Data Comparisons Key Informant Interviews Methodological Lessons Learned Recommendations References... 51
7 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 7 Background Homeless youth and children are comprised of two groups, 1) children and youth in families who are experiencing homelessness, and 2) unaccompanied children or youth. Unaccompanied children and youth have been estimated to account for approximately one to three million youth or children, or 1% of the urban homeless population 1. This includes children and youth up to age 17 who are not residing with their legal guardians, and are effectively homeless, and young adults ages 18 through 24 who are not residing with families and who are experiencing homelessness. In June, the federal Department of Education announced that the number of homeless students in the U.S. exceeded 1 million for the first time during the school year. Runaway, thrown away (children and youth kicked out of their homes) and children and youth living alone on the streets are examples of unaccompanied youth populations. Obtaining accurate data on the prevalence and service needs of unaccompanied, homeless youth has been described as difficult due to issues such as failure of families to report youth who are no longer living with them, variable definitions for what accounts for runaway behavior, and unaccompanied youths lack of participation in social service programs 2,4. Additionally, unaccompanied youth may live with other friends, family or extended family members, posing further difficulties in capturing this population. National surveys and research studies may fail to provide a clear definition of the homeless children, and they may fail to account for and/or include them in their assessment of youth populations. For example, major surveys and reports on homeless children and youth often adopt the definition of homeless children and youth provided by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act 5,which defines homeless students in public schools as, individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This definition fails to capture those unaccompanied homeless children and youth who have dropped out of school. When unaccompanied youth are described in surveys, the question of whether or not this is an accurate picture of this population comes to bear. For example, during the last Point in Time Count, a statewide census of Connecticut s homeless shelters, an estimated 3,587 individuals were living in homeless shelters across the state of Connecticut on the night of January 29, 2013, with half of this population found in Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven 6. Additionally, of the 3,587 individuals in shelters, approximately 746 were children and 111 were youth in families. Across the state shelters, 172 were homeless youth. Only 12 individuals were identified as unaccompanied children. The impacts of homelessness on children and youth in general have been described extensively within the academic literature 1, 7, Children and youth who experience homelessness are at risk for suffering from hunger and poor physical health 1. In studies comparing homeless and non-homeless youth populations, unaccompanied homeless youth
8 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 8 were found to be more likely to suffer from depression and other mental health or substance abuse concerns as opposed to youth with stable housing 7. Unaccompanied homeless youth may have few employment opportunities due to their age. They may engage in activities, including sex trade or gang violence, that place them at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases and being victims of violence 8,9,10. Lack of a stable residence may also place unaccompanied youth at risk for school absenteeism and school dropout, resulting in failed educational goals 8. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) unaccompanied youth may experience additional traumas from being kicked out of their homes due to their sexual orientation, in addition to experiences of homophobia in their communities 3,11. Homelessness in youth has profound consequences. It is an ongoing problem that has garnered increased attention over the last five years. For example, the most comprehensive study of homeless youth to date was conducted in New York City by the Empire State Coalition in The Coalition surveyed over 1,000 youth who were either homeless or at-risk for homelessness. These young people ranged in age from 14 to 24. The surveys were done at youth programs, at runaway shelters and transitional living programs, at adult homeless programs, on the street, and at other miscellaneous sites. The survey consisted of 55 questions including questions about age, reasons for homelessness, sexual orientation, history of foster care, educational attainment, current living situation and age when they first began living away from their parent/guardian. The results of the Coalition study indicated that there are some populations of youth who are grossly overrepresented in the homeless youth populations, including gay, lesbian and bisexual youth; youth who are transgender; minority youth; youth with some history of foster care; and youth who have been through either the juvenile justice or adult criminal justice systems. The vast majority of the youth in the study were undereducated and unprepared for self sufficiency. A full 50% did not have a high school diploma or an equivalency, and while an additional 23% stated they were in high school or enrolled in a GED program, it is unknown how many of those were able to complete these programs. Importantly, less than 25% of youth utilized a program specifically designed for homeless youth, but those who did were much better able to access needed supports. Displaced youth are an invisible population and a difficult sample to obtain and study. However, they are also particularly vulnerable to the deprivations and consequences associated with homelessness. It is imperative that these youth are identified and cared for prior to falling into serious and lasting life consequences, including poverty, crime, addiction, inadequate education, consistent unemployment or underemployment, chronic health
9 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 9 issues and other maladies affecting their future. The current study seeks to build on previous research while overcoming some traditional limitations Method This study adopted a mixed methods approach by integrating qualitative and quantitative data obtained from interviews with homeless, unaccompanied youth. A mixed data collection method was used. We combined both convenient and snowball sampling strategies. Convenient interviewees were identified at community programs serving young people experiencing housing insecurity. Some of these young people recommended friends and acquaintances who were experiencing similar housing challenges. The strategy of identifying Individuals with similar housing challenges and referring them to be interviewed is called snowball sampling, a type of purposive sampling. A purposive sample is a nonrepresentative subset of a larger population that is constructed to serve a very specific purpose. Research may have a specific group in mind in this case, housing insecure youth and will target that group by interviewing anyone from the target population who is available. A subset of a purposive sample is a snowball sample, so named because one picks up the sample along the way, similar to the way in which snow is picked up as the snowball is rolled. A snowball sample is achieved by asking participants to suggest someone else who might be appropriate for the study. Snowball sampling is particularly useful for research in elusive or hidden populations, such as homeless youth. Obtaining accurate data on the prevalence and service needs of unaccompanied homeless youth have been noted as difficult due to issues such as failure of families to report youth that are no longer living with them, variable definitions for what accounts for runaway behavior, and unaccompanied youths lack of participation in social service programs. Additionally, unaccompanied youth may live with other friends, family or extended family members, posing further difficulties in capturing this population. Snowball sampling was used to mitigate these difficulties with a focus on populations in four areas/towns/surrounding counties in Connecticut: Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, and New London. Using this strategy, this study recruited 98 participants. All participants signed consent, and were then interviewed using a semi-structured measure and then completed several self-report questionnaires. The entire procedure lasted approximately minutes and culminated in debriefing and a $20 compensation for participation. Key informant interviews (n= 16) and a focus group (n=11) were also conducted with local service providers, advocates, Connecticut state agencies, and other interested parties. The information collected from these key constituent groups is summarized later in this document.
10 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 10 Measures Measures included a semi-structured interview and several self-report questionnaires. These measures were used to collect a wide range of data relevant to the experiences of homeless youth and their interaction with social services. The information gathered focused on participant demographics (age, sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status) and history (family, moving, cities and schools, academics, mental health, substance use, abuse, and trauma), as well as a range of key social systems (e.g., criminal justice, social welfare, extracurricular programs, employment) and are presented in the following pages. We also collected qualitative data from the young people where they were asked to indicate where they had lived and who they had lived with over the last six months. In these interviews, they were prompted to respond to social markers (holidays and dates) to facilitate understanding of young people s housing stability prior to their participation in this study. In this study we recruited 98 individuals. Most of the young people interviewed came from the greater Hartford area (40%), followed by New Haven (29%), Bridgeport (20%), New London (6%) and Fairfield County (3%). Region N Hartford 40 Bridgeport 20 New Haven 29 Lower Fairfield County 3 Hartford Bridgeport New Haven New London Fairfield County New London 6
11 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 11 Demographics The following data describes the demographic characteristics of the young people recruited into the study. In this summary, data is presented on sex, race, ethnicity, relationship status, and age. There were 98 youth, of which they were categorized as follows: 53 Females (54.1%) 41 Males (41.8%) 3 Transgender (3.1%)* Race When we examined the racial breakdown of the young people interviewed, the following data were observed: 43 African American (43.9%) 22 Mixed Race (22.4%) 21 Caucasian (21.4%) 1 Asian (1.0%) 1 American Indian/Alaskan Native (1.0%)* Ethnically, one-third of the young people interviewed described themselves as Hispanic/Latino. 33 Hispanic/Latino (33.7%) American Indian or Alaska Native Asian Black White Mixed The age range of participants interviewed was between 14 and 24 years of age, with an average of years (SD = 2.47) *Not all participants responded to every question.
12 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 12 Almost three-quarters of the young people described themselves as single. The others were either involved in a relationship, living with a partner, or married. 69 Single (70.4%) 21 Partnered (21.4%) 5 Living with partner (5.1%) 1 Married (1.0%)* Single Relationship Status Not married, but have a Partner Not married, living with Partner Married Slightly more than three-quarters of the young people described their sexual orientation as heterosexual and slightly less than one-quarter described their sexual orientation as either bisexual, gay, or not sure. 75 Straight (76.5%) 14 Bisexual (14.3%) 6 Gay/Lesbian (6.1%) 2 Not sure (2.0%)* Of the respondents who answered the survey, the majority were born in the United States. 82 were born in the United States (83.7%) *Not all participants responded to every question.
13 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 13 Education When asked about their educational experiences, the young people reported that their educational experiences were varied and underscored the challenges faced by them as they managed their housing challenges. 32.7% (N = 32) of youth surveyed had completed 12 th grade.* 24.5% (N = 24) completed 11 th grade.* 40.8% (N = 40) of the youth reported that 12 th grade was the last grade they had attended.* Perceptions of School Things learned in school were important for my life Enjoyed being at school Percentages of youth who reported that their grades were: o Mostly A s (11.2%; N = 11) o Mostly B s (30.6%; N = 30) o Mostly C s (35.7%; N = 35) o Mostly D s (10.2%; N = 10) o Mostly F s (5.1%; N = 5)* Almost one-third of the youth took PSAT classes 27.6% (N = 27) and 35.7% (N = 35) took the PSAT.* 25.5% (N = 25) of the youth indicated that they had received special education services.* 29.6% (N = 29) of youth surveyed had dropped out of school.* 10.2% (N = 10) of the youth reported that the school told them they could no longer attend after they stopped living with their family.* In open-ended responses, a subset of youth (N = 40) reported barriers related to school. These included challenges with English and academics. Several youth reported that these struggles led them to stop going to school. Additional school-related challenges included feeling socially awkward and having social issues with classmates. *Not all participants responded to every question.
14 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 14 In contrast, several youth reported that school was a source of support and a significant strength was that they were able to graduate from high school. Close relationships with principals, social workers, teachers, guidance counselors, and other school staff often provided emotional support. One youth also reported that teachers provided money and transportation for work and/or appointments when needed. Finances and Employment Homelessness exacts significant financial challenges for adults, thus, we attempted to better understand this issue for young people with unstable housing. Most youth were not working (N = 63, 64.3%); for those who were employed (N = 34, 34.7%), the majority were employed part time (N = 28, 82.4%).* Most of the respondents had significant financial limitations: o The most frequent income range that the young people reported earning was between $0 and $9,999 per year, or between $0 and $200 per week $0-$4,999 (less than $100 per week) $5,000-$9,999 (around $ per week) Yearly Household Income $10,000-$14,999 (around $ per week) $15,000-$19,999 (around $ per week) $25,000-$34,999 (around $ per week) $35,000-$49,999 (around $700-1,000 per week) $50,000 or more (more than $1,000 per week) *Not all participants responded to every question.
15 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 15 Sources of income included: o Employment (N = 34, 34.7%) o Spouse/partner (N = 7, 7.1%) o Parent/ guardian (N = 31, 31.6%) o Relatives (N = 7, 7.1%) o Friends (N = 12, 12.2%) o Public assistance (N = 20, 20.4%) o Other (N= 22; 22.4%) o Crime and drugs (N = 2, 2.2%) Sources of Income Job Spouse/Partner Parent/Guardian Relatives Friends Crime/drugs Public Assistance Other In the past year, most youth borrowed money from family and friends (N = 65; 66.3%); went hungry (N = 46; 46.9%); and wanted to see a doctor or go to the hospital but couldn t afford it (N = 25; 25.5%).* A subset of the overall sample (N = 40) answered opened ended questions about barriers and strengths related to money. Barriers identified included lack of employment contributing to their money problems and limited transportation options. Lack of support from parents/guardians and stress related to income at home were also challenges described. It is important to note that one youth reported selling drugs as a means to ensure financial security. The youth also reported that even part-time employment was not sufficient to pay rent and purchase food. Despite substantial financial and employment barriers, many youth identified sources of financial support. These included financial supports received from friends, romantic partners, family members, including grandparents, and employment. Several youth reported that they completed paid internships that helped them financially support themselves. When asked how they were able to get money to survive, the youth reiterated the previous sentiments and shared that they received financial support through work, friends, romantic partners, family, and internships. Several youth reported that the shelters provided them with money, and one youth reported that a mentor had provided financial support to help her survive. Some youth also indicated that they worked odd jobs to make money, such as doing hair and babysitting. Youth also reported that they would, at times, go hungry due to lack of money. *Not all participants responded to every question.
16 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 16 Family of Origin Youth were raised by: The majority of the youth had been raised only by their mother (N = 48; DCF 49.0%) and about ¼ was raised by their mother and father (N = 23; 23.5%).* Foster parents Most youth reported that their mothers (N = 65; 66.3%) and fathers (N = 65; 66.3%) highest level of Other family member education was the 12 th grade. Of the 28 youth who indicated they were Father only raised by someone other than their parents, 75% (N = 21) of these guardians had completed 12 grade. Mother only Half of the youth reported that the Department of Children and Family Mother and Father Services (DCF) had been called on their parents or guardians (N = 52; %) and of those, 36 youth (69.2%) had been removed from their homes by DCF. Notably, youth often indicated that they left home due to problems with their family of origin. For example, several youth reported problems with mom, especially when mom was either in an abusive relationship or had financial challenges. Sometimes, youth were the primary caretakers of younger siblings with little parental support. The most frequently used term throughout these responses was that the youth had bounced around. Female Male Transgender N % N % N % Has DCF ever been called on your parents/guardians? Were you ever removed from your home by DCF? Black White Mixed Hispanic N % N % N % N % Has DCF ever been called on your parents/guardians? Were you ever removed from your home by DCF? *Not all participants responded to every question.
17 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 17 Personal Family Planning 24 females (24.5%) and one male (1.0%) reported that they had been pregnant. The male youth reported that he kept his one child.* Of the 24 females who had been pregnant, 17 (70.8%) kept the child; 5 (20.8%) had an abortion, one (4.2%) gave the child up for adoption, and one (4.2%) had the child taken from her by DCF. Of the 19 female respondents, 10 had one child (52.6%), five had two children (26.3%), and four had three or more children (21.1%). Of 17 female respondents who were currently living with their children, 14 had one child living with them (82.4%), two had two children living with them (11.8%), and one had three or more children living with them (5.9%). Four female respondents received child support from the other parent and five received childcare assistance from the government. Of eight female respondents who no longer had custody of their children, two reported that they had given a child up to DCF, five had given a child up to a family members and one had given her child up for adoption. Housing Understanding the housing experiences of these youth is a complex issue. While a large number of these young people reported significant housing instability, few considered themselves homeless or housing insecure. When asked how long have they been living/staying in their current contexts: o Living/staying in their current contexts for less than 3 months (N = 40; 40.8%).* o 3-6 months (N = 11; 11.2%) o 6-12 months (N = 16; 16.3%) o 1-2 years (N = 10; 10.2%) o More than 2 years (N = 20; 20.4%)* *Not all participants responded to every question.
18 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 18 As shown in the figure below, 49.0% (N = 48) youth had moved more than six times in their lifetime. Similarly, almost 3/4 of the youth (N = 66; 67.3%) had moved two times or more in the past year.* More than half of the youth had been kicked out of their homes by their family at least one time (N = 57; 58.2%).* Most youth reported that they had stayed with friends (N = 71; 72.4%); other relatives (N = 76; 77.6%); shelter (N = 42; 42.9%); and on the street/in a car/outdoors (N = 37; 37.8%) at least one time in their lifetime.* Housing Situations in Lifetime 1x 2x 3x 4x 5x 6x More than 6x Stayed in shelter Stayed in street/car Stayed with friend Stayed with other family members Moved in lifetime Moved in past year Kicked out of home Youth reported that they had been homeless one time (N = 18; 18.4%); two times (N = 8; 8.2%); three times (N = 7; 7.1%); and four or more times (N = 23; 23.5%).* Notably, five youth reported that they had been homeless more than 20 times (5.1%).* 39.8% (N = 39) of the youth reported that they had never been homeless.* A subset (N = 40) of the total sample of 98 youth completed additional paper and pencil questions administered during their completion of the online survey. These questions asked them to think back over the past year regarding their housing experiences. This recall attempt was grounded by significant dates (e.g., holidays, birthdays). Questions specifically asked about housing transitions in the past six months, including whom the youth lived with and where they lived. The frequencies of transitions were calculated as a proxy for housing (in)stability. At the time of participation, two youth were living with their sexual partners (5.0%); two were living with their children (5.0%); 14 were living with their parents (35.0%); eight were living with family (20.0%); five were living with friends (12.5%); and nine were living alone (22.5%). *Not all participants responded to every question.
19 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 19 Most (N = 17; 42.5%) youth were living in a house/apartment; 12 were living in a shared housing environment (30.0%); seven were living in a residential program with staff (17.5%); two were living in shared housing (5.0%); and two were temporarily housed (5.0%). On average, youth had lived in their current residence for 3.29 months (SD = 2.32). 27 youth reported a second residence in the past six months, which included with family (N = 8; 28.6%); alone (N = 7; 25.0%); friends (N = 6; 21.4%); a sexual partner (N = 3; 10.7%); children (N = 1; 3.6%) and other (N = 1; 3.6%). Of the 27 youth, most reported their second residence in a mutual living environment (N = 12; 44.4%); a house/apartment (N = 7; 25.9%); temporary housing (N = 3; 11.1%); homeless shelter (3; 11.1%); residential program with staff (N = 2; 7.4%); and controlled environment (1; 3.7%). On average, youth had lived in their second setting for 2.37 months (SD = 1.66). Fifteen youth reported a third residence in the past six months, and six reported four residences in the past six months. Three youth (7.5%) had lived in more than five places in the past six months. Importantly, the majority (70.0%, N = 28) of the 40 youth had transitioned at least once in the past six months. Youth identified barriers to housing that included challenges with a parent and/or guardian which prohibited a return home. Strengths at home included the support of peripheral family members, including siblings and aunts Frequency of Transitions in Last Six Months Several youth reported that since they had left their family/guardians, they had bounced around. *Not all participants responded to every question.
20 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 20 Substance Use Cigarettes Most youth had tried cigarettes or cigars (N = 59; 60.2%) and the average age of first use was years (SD = 3.27). In the past 30 days, 39 youth smoked 1-2 days or more (40.0%) and the majority (N = 31; 79.5%) smoked between 2 and 20 cigarettes. Alcohol Marijuana Cigarettes Most Commonly Used Substances Alcohol Most youth tried alcohol (N = 75; 76.5%) and the average age of first drink was years (SD = 3.38). In the past 30 days, 35 youth had at least one drink (35.7%); and of these, 21 youth had 5 or more drinks within a few hours (60.0%). Marijuana The majority of youth had used marijuana (N = 60; 61.2%) and the average age of first use was years (SD = 2.63). Although alcohol, cigarettes/cigars, and marijuana were the most commonly used substances, youth also endorsed use of ecstasy, non-prescribed prescription drugs, cocaine, methamphetamine, inhalants, steroids, and heroin % of Youth Who Used In the past 30 days, twenty-nine youth (48.3%) smoked marijuana.
21 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 21 Mental Health Youth were asked several questions about their mental health status, including questions about suicide attempts and exposure to traumatic events. Suicide In the past twelve months, one quarter of youth surveyed (23.5%) had considered a suicide attempt. 14 of those youth (60.8%) made a plan for how to commit suicide 14 youth tried to commit suicide. 64.2% (N = 9) tried one time 35.7% (N = 5) tried two or three times 6 of the 14 (42.9%) who attempted suicide reported that the attempt resulted in an injury or poisoning. Trauma Youth endorsed multiple traumatic experiences throughout their lives. In fact, the average total number of trauma experiences endorsed was 5.05 (SD = 3.04). As shown in the figure, the majority of youth reported exposure to three or more traumatic events (N = 61; 62.2%); while eight youth reported exposure to two traumatic events (N = 8; 8.2%); nine youth reported exposure to one traumatic event (N = 9; 9.2%); and two youth reported exposure to no traumatic events (N = 2; 2.0%).* Exposure to Traumatic Events None One Two Three or more *Not all participants responded to every question.
22 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 22 The most frequently endorsed traumatic event was the incarceration of a friend/family member (N = 69; 70.4%), followed by being attacked without a weapon (N = 52; 53.1%); the murder of a close friend/family member (N = 45; 45.9%); a natural disaster (N = 40; 40.8%); a serious accident/injury (N = 37; 37.6%); being attacked with a weapon (N = 35; 35.7%); raped (N = 32; 32.7%); attacked at home (N = 32; 32.7%), attacked at school (N = 31; 31.6%); attacked by stranger (N = 33; 33.7%); attacked by gang (N = 25; 25.5%); had a a close friend/family member commit suicide (N = 15; 15.3%); experienced a life threatening illness (N = 10; 10.2%) and was involved in military combat (N = 1; 1.0%).* Traumatic Events Exposure Perceived Stress Youth also indicated high levels of perceived stress as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale 12. This scale measures psychological stress on a scale from zero (never) to four (very often) within the past month. On average, the perceived stress score was (SD = 7.44) and ranged from 0-38 points. The most commonly endorsed items are presented in the table below. Item Average How often have you felt nervous and stressed? 2.71 How often have you been angered because of things outside of your control? 2.43
23 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 23 Self Esteem As shown in the chart to the right, youth s self-reported selfesteem as measured by the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale averaged points (SD = 1.80) and ranged from points, suggesting good self esteem. National averages range from 15 to 30 points. The items on this scale ranged from 1 (disagree) to 4(agree strongly) Self Esteem Scores Personality Youth completed a 10-item measure to assess personality characteristics. Specifically, this measure assessed the Big 5 Personality Factors: o Openness to experience: this measures insight, imagination, and range of interests. o Conscientiousness: this measures thoughtfulness, good impulse control, goaldirected behaviors, organization, and mindfulness of details. o Extraversion: this measures excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and emotional expressiveness. o Agreeableness: this measures traits such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other pro-social behaviors. o Emotional Stability: this measures level of emotional stability, anxiety, moodiness, irritability, and sadness. Openness to Experience average scores were 5.23 (SD = 1.16) which was average when compared to population norms. Emotional Stability average scores were 4.06 (SD = 1.38) which was slightly lower than population norms. Conscientiousness average scores were 5.18 (SD = 1.26) which was slightly lower than population norms. Personality Characteristics Openness to Experience Emotional Stability Conscientiousness Agreeableness Extraversion
24 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 24 Agreeableness average scores were 4.72 (SD = 1.09) which was moderately lower than population norms. Extraversion average scores were 4.47 (SD = 1.44) which was similar to population norms. Taken together, youth who participated in the study scored highest on open to new experiences, conscientiousness, and agreeableness. Sexual Health Most youth reported that they had engaged in sexual intercourse (N = 83; 84.7%). On average, youth were years old (SD = 2.97) at their first sexual intercourse encounter (range 8 23 years).* o 23.5% (N = 23) of the youth first experienced sexual intercourse at age 12 or under.* o 54.1% (N = 53) of the youth first experienced sexual intercourse at age 15 or under.* On average, respondents had 5.67 sexual partners in their lifetime (SD = 3.23) and 1.73 partners in the last three months (SD = 1.32). Almost one-fifth of the youth drank alcohol or used drugs prior to their most recent sexual encounter (N = 18; 18.4%).* Most youth reported that they had used condoms (N = 39; 39.8%); birth control pills (N = 4; 4.1%); an IUD (N = 3; 3.1%); withdrawal (N = 3; 3.1%) to prevent pregnancy. More than one quarter (N = 26; 26.5%) used no method and seven (7.1%) were not sure.* Method of Birth Control I have never had sex No method Birth control pills Condoms Any IUD Withdrawal Not sure *Not all participants responded to every question.
25 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 25 As shown to the right, several youth reported that they had traded sex for money (N = 7; 7.1%), a place to stay (N = 8; 8.2%); and drugs or alcohol (N = 4; 4.1%).* The majority of youth respondents had been taught about AIDS or HIV infection in school (N = 76; 77.6%). Most youth reported that they knew their HIV status and that it was negative (N = 73; 74.5%); however, one-fifth of respondents did not know their HIV status (N = 19; 19.4%) Traded sex for money Sex Trading Traded sex for a place to stay Traded sex for drugs/alcohol As shown below in Table 2, sexual health varied by age at first sexual intercourse. Table 2: Age and sexual health 12 or under (23) 15 or under (53) Total Sample (98) Drank alcohol or used drugs prior to sex 30.4% (7) 26.4% (14) 18.4% (18) Birth Control Condoms 52.2% (12) 45.3%(24) 39.8% (39) Birth Control Pills 0 7.5% (4) 4.1% (4) IUD 8.7% (2) 5.7% (3) 3.1% (3) Withdrawal 4.3% (1) 1.9% (1) 3.1% (3) No protection 13.0% (3) 28.3% (15) 26.5% (26) Not sure 21.7% (5) 9.4% (5) 7.1% (7) Traded sex for money 8.7% (2) 9.4% (5) 7.1% (7) Traded sex for drugs 8.7% (2) 3.8% (2) 4.1% (4) Traded sex for a place to stay 21.7% (5) 13.2% (7) 8.2% (8) *Not all participants responded to every question.
26 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 26 Court and Criminal Justice History Families with Service Needs (FWSN) 16.3% (N = 16) of the youth surveyed reported that they had been referred to probation or court for a Family with Service Needs (FWSN) case. Of these 16 youth, six (37%) reported that their case had been dismissed; three (19%) reported that their case had been referred to a family support center; and seven (44%) reported that their case had been referred for services. Half of the youth surveyed had been arrested at least one time. Criminal Justice/Delinquency Types of Conviction Approximately half (N = 47; 48.0%) of the youth had been arrested at Other least one time.* Felony violent Of those arrested, 15 had been arrested for activities related to Felony property drugs, with six youth reporting the arrest as a juvenile; seven as an adult; and two as both a juvenile Misdemeanor violent and adult. Misdemeanor property Of the 47 youth who had been arrested, 20 (42.6%) had been convicted of a crime. As shown in the figure to the left, four youth (20.0%) were convicted of misdemeanor property crimes; three (15.0%) of misdemeanor violent crimes; two (10.0%) of felony property crimes; five (25.0%) of felony violent crimes; and five (25.0%) of other crimes. Sixteen youth reported that they had been in jail, prison, or a juvenile detention facility one time (N = 5; 31.3%); two times (N = 8; 50.0%); and three times (N = 3; 18.7%). Most of the youth who had been incarcerated had been detained for less than one month to six months (N = 10; 62.5%) *Not all participants responded to every question.
27 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 27 39% (N=36) of the young people reported having been incarcerated in jail, prison, juvenile detention or residential facility. Of those who had been incarcerated, three reported that they tried to stay in a correctional facility longer because their family couldn t or wouldn t take them in; two tried to stay because they were waiting for a foster home; and two tried to stay because they were waiting for a group home. Of these detained young people, while incarcerated/residential: o Two youth reported using drugs (12.5%); o Nine youth had witnessed physical violence (56.3%); o Five had been victims of physical violence (31.25%); o One had been a victim of sexual violence (6.3%); and o Four witnessed sexual violence (25.0%) while in a correctional facility. Twelve youth reported that they had violated probation in the past (12.2%). As shown below in Table 3, a larger percentage of females were referred to probation or court for a Family with Service Needs case. In contrast, a larger percentage of males had been incarcerated. In terms of race, a larger percentage of Black youth had been arrested, convicted of a crime, and incarcerated than their White and Mixed counterparts. Table 3: Criminal Justice, Sex and Race Female Male Transgender N % N % N % Referred to probation or court for FWSN case Ever arrested Convicted of a crime Incarcerated Black White Mixed Hispanic N % N % N % N % Referred to probation or court for FWSN case Ever arrested Convicted of a crime Incarcerated
28 Homeless Youth in Connecticut 28 Social Service Benefits When asked about social services, more than Benefits Received half of the youth reported that they received Food Stamps food stamps (N = 56; 57.1%). None of these The next most frequently endorsed service Free school meals item was no benefits (N = 29; 29.6%). WIC Four youth reported that they received DCF support welfare benefits (4.1%); ten received WIC Social security (Food and Nutrition services for Women, Child support Infants, and Children) (10.2%); three had Disability Section 8 housing (3.1%); four received Welfare disability (4.1%); two received unemployment (2.0%); four received child support (4.1%); Other seven received DCF support (7.1%); 18 Section 8 received free meals at school (18.4%); six Unemployment received Social Security or survivor s benefits (6.1%); and three received other benefits 0 50 (3.1%). As shown in the figure below, a small proportion of youth did not have health insurance (N = 11; 11.2%). Most youth had Husky A, or state, insurance (N = 62; 63.3%).* A small number of youth had private insurance (N = 8; 8.2%); or used a community health network (N = 2; 2.0%).* Health Insurance Status No Private insurance (HMO, etc.) Medicaid/Title 19 Husky A Community Health Network Other *Not all participants responded to every question.
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