Homeless Youths’ Caretakers: The Mediating Role of Childhood Abuse on Street Victimization and Housing Instability

Homeless youths who live on the streets are particularly vulnerable to victimization and continued homelessness. Identifying factors associated with housing stability and victimization while homeless can offer useful guidance for those who serve these youths. The current study examined the relationship between multiple caretakers and the unique effect of childhood abuse (physical, sexual, neglect) on past-year housing and victimization experiences. Seventy-nine substance-using, street-living youths ages 14 to 24 years completed the survey. Findings confirmed a relationship between multiple caretaker transitions and childhood sexual abuse and neglect, but not physical abuse. Sexual abuse was further associated with higher street victimization and reduced housing stability. In addition, sexual abuse mediated the relationship between multiple caretakers and past-year victimization and housing instability. These findings suggest that sexually abused homeless youths are at particular risk for future victimization and housing instability compared with other youths, and specialized intervention for these youths is indicated.

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Social Work
Midwestern United States