3.7 The digital lives of youth who are homeless: Implications for intervention, policy, and services

Each year, 1.5 million to 3 million youth in the United States experience homelessness1 (Toro, Lesperance, & Braciszewski, 2011). They are considered to be one of the most marginalized groups in the country. Among the many challenges they face are acquiring health care, employment, and stable housing. It is becoming increasingly important to consider how to use information and communication technologies (ICT) to increase service engagement and outreach and improve health outcomes and quality of life among youth who are homeless. 

ICT encompasses a range of interactive tools and platforms; these include social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where people create profiles and share them with network contacts; content-sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr, which are used to share, rate, and discuss videos and photographs (Adewuyi & Adefemi, 2016); and mobile phones and mobile phone–based applications, which have become a popular alternative to traditional websites for delivering information. 

This chapter discusses recent research on ICT use among youth who are homeless. It also describes interventions in the United States that have used these technologies to engage this population, and explains how what we have learned can be translated into service and policy initiatives that reduce disparities in accessing information and other resources in this vulnerable group. 

Sean Kidd, Natasha Slesnick, Tyler Frederick, Jeff Karabanow, Stephen Gaetz
Publication Date: 
Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press