Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version

Summer 7-15-2010


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Sociology, Under the Supervision of Professors Kimberly A. Tyler and Lisa A. Kort-Butler. Lincoln, Nebraska: July 2010 Copyright (c) 2010 Sarah L. Akinyemi


Few studies exist on the types of characteristics associated with service utilization (e.g., shelters, food programs) among homeless youth in the U.S. Services are important, however, because without food and shelter, numerous homeless youth resort to trading sex in order to meet their daily survival needs. Access to physical and mental health services gives homeless youth more of an opportunity to integrate into mainstream society than they would otherwise have. To address this gap in our understanding, my study examines what traits (e.g. age, race, abuse history) correlate with the use of shelters, food programs, street outreach, counseling, STD/STI testing, and HIV testing among homeless youth. The Theory of Reasoned Action is used as an ideological framework in conjunction with theoretical constructs of risk, need, and prior service exposure. Data were obtained from the Social Network and Homeless Youth Project (SNHYP), a sample of 249 Midwestern homeless youth ages 14 to 21, which used trained interviewers to conduct structured interviews with youth. Respondents were interviewed in both shelters and on the street over a period of approximately one year. My findings revealed that homeless youth’s service usage varied across gender, sexual orientation, age, having recently held a job, and having ever been physically or sexually abused, in addition to other characteristics. Conversely, service use was not associated with social network size or subjective norms (i.e. attitudes of peers, such as acceptance of condom use) of youths’ social networks. By examining these areas, my study builds on previous research on homeless youth and lays the framework for future research on service utilization by homeless youth.

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