The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how urban, young adults assessed received social supports (Vaux, 1988) during homelessness in high school. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (2007), approximately 1 to 1.5 million youth under the age of 18 in America experience at least one incident of homelessness each year. These estimates do not include unaccompanied youth who may double-up with friends or family members and are most likely underrepresented in the data (Jozefowicz-Simbeni & Israel, 2006).
This study used a participatory action research (PAR) methodology and interviews. The PAR team consisted of the primary researcher and four research assistants, college students who either experienced homelessness in high school or had homeless youth living with them in high school. Members of the PAR team used semi-structured and structured interviews with seventeen urban, young adults who experienced homelessness in high school; twelve participants were traditional high school graduates, and five participants were nontraditional high school graduates.
Overall, urban, young adults who were traditional high school graduates were satisfied with the support provided by friends, friends' parents, extended family, immediate family, school, and extracurricular groups. They were dissatisfied with support provided by organizations. Urban, young adults who were nontraditional high school graduates were satisfied with support provided by friends, friends' parents, extended family, and school. They did not identify immediate family as support, and they were not satisfied with the support from organizations.
To better meet the needs of these youth, it is recommended that researchers (a) collect data to more accurately determine the number of homeless and unaccompanied youth, (b) explore the challenges faced by friends, extended family, and immediate family who provide supports, (c) investigate the capacity of organizations to provide supports, (c) involve homeless and unaccompanied youth in participatory action research on youth homelessness, and (d) conduct longitudinal studies on the academic achievement of homeless and unaccompanied youth. Recommendations for practice include: (a) provide support services for friends, extended family, and immediate family of homeless and unaccompanied youth, (b) develop training for staff at schools and organizations on the needs of homeless and unaccompanied youth, (c) improve awareness and accessibility of programs, (d) use an ecological model when developing and providing services, (e) create age-appropriate housing options for older teens and young adults, and (f) involve homeless and unaccompanied youth in the development and implementation of programs and outreach.