Youth Perspectives on Street Outreach Workers: Results from a Community-Based Survey
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- Pollack, K.M., Frattaroli, S., Whitehill, J.M. et al. J Community Health (2011) 36: 469. doi:10.1007/s10900-010-9329-3
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The United Teen Equality Center in Lowell, Massachusetts uses Street Outreach Workers (SWs) to intervene with individuals 13–23 years old who are involved in high risk behaviors or in need of assistance. Few studies have explored the perceptions of SWs by their target population (both individuals they have worked with and those who they have not yet worked with). To better understand how youth perceive the SWs and to contribute to the scant literature regarding their roles and impacts, we conducted a community-based survey to capture youth perspectives of, and experiences with SWs. Regardless of whether they had worked with a SW, youth respondents reported that their peers believed the SWs made Lowell a better place. Youth who had prior contact with a SW were more likely to respond that their peers view the SWs as helpful to youth and respected. Youth who had no prior contact with SWs were more likely to report that SWs were not present where they lived. Among youth who had worked with a SW 38% received help finding a job and 67% indicated that working with a SW made a difference in their lives. Approximately 82% of individuals who participated in mediation activities led by the SWs reported that it resolved their conflict. These results support the value of SWs in helping youth meet their needs and in mediating disputes. SWs should continue to connect with local agencies to address the needs of youth, especially employment, which was a priority.