Barriers and facilitators to shelter utilization among homeless young adultsedit
Rates of shelter use among homeless youth are low compared to use of other supportive services, yet research on barriers to shelter use has been conducted in limited regions, specifically in West Coast or Midwest cities. Additionally, while studies have generally focused on barriers to shelter use, studies on what might facilitate shelter use are lacking. This study explores barriers and facilitators to shelter use among homeless young adults from a large city in the Southwest region. Focus groups were conducted with a diverse sample of 49 homeless young adults ages 18-24. Drawing on models of health service use, findings were categorized into two domains–attitudinal and access. Themes related to attitudinal barriers include stigma/shame and self-reliance/pride. Attitudinal facilitators include the desire to extricate themselves from street life and turn their lives in a new direction. Access-related themes include barriers such as a lack of shelters and services available to meet the needs of youth, adverse shelter conditions, staff attitudes that are not acceptable to youth, restrictive shelter rules, restrictive definitions of homelessness, and a desire to differentiate themselves from older homeless individuals. Certain characteristics or circumstances (e.g., being pregnant), having supportive others, and shelters’ ability to connect them to other services emerged as access facilitators to shelter use. Implications for policymakers, service providers, and future research are discussed.