Survival Among Male Homeless Adolescents
Hein, Laura Christine
The ecological perspective, which posits that the individual cannot be understood outside of context, was used to guide this research. The purpose of this comparative-descriptive study was to investigate survival among male homeless adolescents. Forty seven straight and 23 queer (gay, bisexual and transsexual) male homeless adolescents (16-20 years old) were compared on how they came to be homeless, residential stability, survival strategies, and psychological indicators (state and trait anxiety, self-esteem, and collective self-esteem). Standardized instruments were used to obtain data on psychological indicators; other variables were developed from structured interivews. Approximately equal numbers of youth became homeless due to their own volition, their parents choice, and due to a social service system problem, with a small percentage homeless due to tragedy - without variation by orientation. Over one-third of queer youth became homeless due to their orientation, with the highest percentage among transsexual youth. Queer youth were younger, dropped out of High School more often, and were principally sofa-surfing, whereas straight youth were principally staying in shelters. While some youth stayed in one place, there was no pattern to movement from one residence to another. Survival strategies included accessing homeless services, asking friends or family for money, drug work, gang activity, panhandling/dumpster diving, robbing/stealing, running scams, sex trade work (hustling and pimping) and working. Straight youth were involved in more other-harmful survival activities than queer youth. The sexual orientations did not differ significantly on psychosocial indicators. Differences were found between queer orientations for residential stability, path to homelessness, and survival strategies. Overall 64% of youth said they were better off since leaving home. The results indicate that there are some differences between straight and queer homeless adolescents that need further exploration. These data suggest that interventions for homeless adolescents may be tailored to sexual orientation to be most effective.