Invited Commentary: Seeking a Coherent Strategy in our Response to Homeless and Street-Involved Youth: A Historical Review and Suggested Future Directions

This invited commentary seeks to encourage a critical dialogue about youth homelessness that might assist in re-energizing a field that seems increasingly stagnant with a research body focused primarily on analyses of risk, hopelessly inadequate policy frameworks in most cities, diminishing funds for services, and decreasing media attention. Reviewing major trends in research and public responses to youth homelessness in the past century, I propose that there exist three major culturally-bound dimensions from which we construct our understanding of and responses to youth homelessness. These dimensions, which are considered in a transactional framework, are the scope of responsibility, the location of moral responsibility, and the amount of agency attributed to the youth. In this review I highlight the manner in which our historically binary and uncritical understanding of these dimensional characterizations of youth homelessness has led to major lapses in the effectiveness of our collective efforts to address this problem. I highlight gaps in the existing body of research literature and provide this framework, arguing that a strategic and cohesive response is vital if we are to move from reiterations of risk and hackneyed calls for prevention strategies to the generation of meaningful solutions.

Publication Date: 
January 13, 2012
Journal Name: 
Journal of Youth and Adolescence