Risk Detection and Self-Protection Among Homeless Youth

Utilizing qualitative interviews with a large sample of 145 homeless youth seeking services at homeless youth serviceagencies from across three U.S. cities (Los Angeles, Denver, and Austin), this study sought to explore youths’ perspec-tives on ways in which they detect risk and protect themselves on the streets. Results indicated that youth use a combi-nation of internal cues (affective responses) and external cues (reading people) to detect danger, although many timesdanger was described as undetectable. Certain contexts, includes those that were unfamiliar, difficult to escape, orinvolved drugs were described as most dangerous. In response to these dangers, youth employed self-protection strate-gies such as carrying weapons, banding together with trusted others, isolating, or seeking programing to leave the streets.

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Journal of Research on Adolescence