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A Test of Outreach and Drop-in Linkage Versus Shelter Linkage for Connecting Homeless Youth to Services

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Outreach and service linkage are key for engaging marginalized populations, such as homeless youth, in services. Research to date has focused primarily on engaging individuals already receiving some services through emergency shelters, clinics, or other programs. Less is known about those who are not connected to services and, thus, likely the most vulnerable and in need of assistance. The current study sought to engage non-service-connected homeless youth (N = 79) into a strengths-based outreach and advocacy intervention. Youth were randomly assigned to receive 6 months of advocacy that focused on linking youth to a drop-in center (n = 40) or to a crisis shelter (n = 39). All youth were assessed at baseline and 3, 6, and 9 months post-baseline. Findings indicated that youth prefer drop-in center services to the shelter. Also, the drop-in center linkage condition was associated with more service linkage overall (B = 0.34, SE = 0.04, p < 0.01) and better alcohol-l [B = −0.39, SE = 0.09, t(75) = −4.48, p < 0.001] and HIV-related outcomes [B = 0.62, SE = 0.10, t(78) = 6.34, p < 0.001] compared to the shelter linkage condition. Findings highlight the importance of outreach and service linkage for reconnecting service-marginalized youth, and drop-in centers as a primary service option for homeless youth.

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This work was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant No. R34DA032699 to the first author.

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Correspondence to Natasha Slesnick.

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This study has been approved by The Ohio State University IRB and was performed in accordance with ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in this study.

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Slesnick, N., Feng, X., Guo, X. et al. A Test of Outreach and Drop-in Linkage Versus Shelter Linkage for Connecting Homeless Youth to Services. Prev Sci 17, 450–460 (2016).

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