Each newly homeless youth was identified by an interviewer conducting a 13-item screening that established whether the youth: 1) was aged 12 to 20 years; 2) had spent at least two consecutive nights away from home (after being ejected or leaving without a guardian’s permission); and 3) had lived away from home for less than six months. Time away rather than number of homeless episodes defined a newly homeless adolescent as determined from conversations with service providers. The sampling procedure varied slightly across countries, reflecting differences in the type, number, and geographical distribution of agencies serving homeless youth and policies in each setting [4
]. In California, the probabilities of newly homeless youth presenting in each shelter (n = 17) and street site (n = 13) were assessed and an interviewing rotation plan was designed to yield a representative sample. In Australia, recruitment was based on staff referral from 95 service and homeless service agencies in Melbourne. In Los Angeles, 261 newly homeless youth were recruited (58% female; 23% African American, 43% Latino, and 20% White) and 165 newly homeless youth in Melbourne were recruited (75% female) ranging from 12 to 20 years old (M
= 17.3; SD
= 1.9). American youth averaged one year younger than the Australians and their parents were more likely to have been high school or college graduates.
The study fulfilled all human subject guidelines and was approved by the appropriate Institutional Review Boards at both the U.S. and Australian research centers. Following informed consent, youth completed 1 to 1 ½ hour interviews at recruitment, between July 2000 and June 2002. These interviews included: homeless experience, sexual behavior, substance use, mental health status, social networks, and relationships. The interviews were repeated at 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months, with retention rates ranging from 74% to 86%, with 61% completing all five follow-ups. Youth received $20 to $40 per interview.
Using laptop computers, trained interviewers assessed whether the youth returned to the family home or not; time to when the youth first returned home (evaluated at the 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 month assessments); and the period of time the youth lived at home in months ranging from 0 to 24 months consecutively. Survival analyses were conducted examining the time to first return home based on city, age, and gender. Time to return home was calculated from the start of the homelessness episode prior to baseline until the first return home in the follow-up period, measured in months.