Academic journal article Journal of Urban and Regional Analysis

Addressing Service Access Barriers for Homeless Youth: A Call for Collaboration

Academic journal article Journal of Urban and Regional Analysis

Addressing Service Access Barriers for Homeless Youth: A Call for Collaboration

Article excerpt

Introduction

Homeless youth are among the most vulnerable individuals in North American society (Kidd 2003). Given their vulnerability, victimization, and generally poor physical and mental health, access to health services is critical to survival on the streets (Kidd 2003). However, homeless youths' ability to access the services they need is limited by a number of factors. Well documented barriers to service access for homeless youth and other homeless populations include issues of mistrust towards professionals and authorities, lack of health insurance, and issues related to gender and ethnicity (Thompson et al. 2006a, Kidd 2003, Aviles and Helfrich 2004, Berdhal et al. 2005). Increasingly, however, barriers that are geographic in nature are receiving research attention. This includes research on the location of services and homeless youths' diminished access to adequate forms of transportation. Researchers studying homeless youth are recognizing the role of urban geographic theory in properly addressing the barriers that homeless youth experience in accessing health services (Baker Collins 2013, Elias 2009, Thompson et al. 2006a). That said, the influence of geographic theory and interventions has been more commonly applied to issues concerning adult homelessness. Few works have been dedicated to the application of geographic theory and interventions to issues unique to youth homelessness.

While many of the "on-the-street" stressors are similar for both urban and rural homeless youth, there are key differences as they relate to access to services. The rate of overall homelessness is approximately 14 homeless individuals for every 10,000 people in rural areas. This is less than half the 29 of 10,000 persons rate found to exist in urban settings. The lower number of homeless individuals in rural settings generally means a much lower concentration of homeless youth in rural areas than in urban areas, as would be expected. Perhaps paradoxically, the lack of a "critical mass" of homeless youth in rural settings means that rural homeless youth assistance services and systems are rare. Where they do exist, they often lack the i nfrastructure to provide comprehensive care to these youth. In addition to the low concentration of homeless youth in rural settings, the lack of available affordable housing, limited public transportation, and low levels of governmental funding contribute to the maintenance of inadequate care for homeless youth in rural settings (National Alliance to End Homelessness 2010).

Further inter-disciplinary collaboration between geographers and mental health professionals will be critical in harnessing urban geographic theory to alleviate these barriers to access, particularly for rural homeless youth. With that in mind, this paper has three aims: 1) it seeks to orient the reader to the nature of life on the streets for homeless youth in North America (the scope is limited to the United States and Canada); 2) it seeks to provide a brief overview of research related to the influence of geography and location to homeless youths' ability to access services (of note, discussion of works related to the application of geographic theory and interventions to issues of adult homelessness are outside the scope of the paper); and, 3) it seeks to be a call-to-action for both urban geographers and researchers focused on homeless youth, encouraging discussion and collaboration to address service access barriers.

Materials and Methods

In order to gather sources for this discussion paper, searches were conducted using the PsycInfo database. Keywords such as: "homeless', "geography', "youth', "urban', "rural' were used along with the criterion that articles were published between 1960 and 2013. Article abstracts were reviewed for relevance. Articles that did not focus on the location or configuration of homeless youth services were rejected. Based on this review, articles most relevant to the current discussion were selected for further analysis. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.