A Descriptive Study of Health Care Needs of Homeless Youth

Date of Graduation

Spring 2000


Master of Science in Nursing



Committee Chair

Kathryn Hope


Homeless youth represent one of the nation's most vulnerable populations, and their "survival life-style" places them at extremely high risk of contracting debilitating or life threatening illnesses or injuries (Busen et al., 1997, p. 316). Health services are not readily available or accessible, and they are medically underserved. The purpose of this study was to determine: 1) the adolescent experience of homelessness, 2) real and perceived health risks associated with being homeless, 3) health care problems of homelss youth, and 4) health care needs are not being met. The study, a descriptive analysis of combined qualitative and quantitative methods, utilizes a triangulation approach. The qualitative portion utilizes the phenomenological approach to examine the health care problems and needs youth face. A convenience sample (N=4) was recruited from area shelters, centers, and homeless youth living on the streets. The quantitative portion consisted of the analysis of medical records (N=19). Qualitative findings are reported in terms of prevalent and recurring themes, and quantitatively through statistical analysis of health care problems identified in chart review. Analysis of medical charts shows 63.2% of homeless had no insurance, as opposed to 100% of youth interviewed. Seventy-five percent of youth interviewed reported inadequate health care. Implications include a better understanding of the lived experiences and needs of homeless youth. Research provides a better understanding of the prevalence of acute and chronic illnesses, fears, and attitudes of homeless youth.

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© Vicky J Owens