Risk Detection and Self-protection among Homeless Youth

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Graduate School of Social Work


Homeless youth, Risk detection, Self‐protection strategies, Homeless youth service agencies


Utilizing qualitative interviews with a large sample of 145 homeless youth seeking services at homeless youth service agencies from across three U.S. cities (Los Angeles, Denver, and Austin), this study sought to explore youths' perspectives on ways in which they detect risk and protect themselves on the streets. Results indicated that youth use a combination of internal cues (affective responses) and external cues (reading people) to detect danger, although many times danger was described as undetectable. Certain contexts, includes those that were unfamiliar, difficult to escape, or involved drugs were described as most dangerous. In response to these dangers, youth employed self‐protection strategies such as carrying weapons, banding together with trusted others, isolating, or seeking programing to leave the streets.

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