Predicting Geographic Transience in Homeless Young Adults across Three U.S. Cities: Who are these Frequent Flyers and Distance Travelers?

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Graduate School of Social Work


Geographic mobility, Homeless, Resilience, Risk, Transience, Young adult


Prior research reveals high rates of geographic mobility (i.e., transience) among homeless young adults (HYAs). Yet to date, little is known about predictors of different aspects of their transience as well as characteristics of the most highly transient HYAs. This study thus used the risk/resilience framework to identify predictors of three measures of HYAs’ transience (i.e., number of intercity moves, total distance traveled, and average distance traveled) as well as to identify the characteristics of the most highly transient HYAs: frequent flyers (i.e., HYAs with seven or more intercity moves), distance travelers (i.e., HYAs who have traveled average distances greater than 1,092 kilometers), and combined frequent flyers and distance travelers (i.e., HYAs with seven or more intercity moves and average travel distances greater than 1,092 kilometers). Purposive sampling was used to recruit 601 HYAs (ages 18–24) from Los Angeles, Austin, and Denver. Three Ordinary Least Squares regression models identified predictors of each facet of transience. Chi-square tests and independent t-tests were then used to identify profiles of frequent flyers and distance travelers by using the upper quartiles on the variables number of intercity moves and average distance traveled, respectively. Findings reveal similarities in the risk predictors and profiles. The resilience characteristic of self-reliance was a consistent predictor of all three measures of transience. Understanding that transience among HYAs serves both adaptive and maladaptive purposes can inform service providers in customizing interventions aimed at supporting adaptive travel to make it safer as well as preventing and reducing maladaptive travel.

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