Date of this Version
Children and Youth Services Review 76 (2017), pp. 59–64.
While many homeless youth use cell phones to stay socially connected, and maintaining positive social ties can contribute to pathways out of homelessness, little is known about how using cell phones for data collection can improve these young people’s lives. We conducted baseline and follow-up interviews with 150 homeless youth as well as provided them with a cell phone for 30 days to gather daily data using short message service (SMS) surveying. This paper examines youths’ opinions about study participation and how they used the cell phone. Results revealed that youth liked participating in the study because the SMS texting portion, for example, made them feel that someone still cared about them, prompted them to self-reflect on their life, and allowed them to make a difference (e.g., educating the public about homelessness). Despite numerous benefits of study participation, improvements that youth discussed for future studies included changing the format of our text questions to allow for explanations and the use of higher-quality phones. In terms of study phone usage, youth reported using the phone to schedule appointments, contact employers, and to keep in touch with family and friends. Finally, we highlight ways in which cell phones via SMS could be used with homeless youth to provide informational resources along with educational and employment opportunities, all of which are important intervention strategies in improving life situations for this population.