Young people ages 18-24 make up approximately 12% of the homeless population in the United States1. Each year in California, there is an estimated 200,000 homeless youth2. These young people are often coming from conflicted or unstable home environments and have run away in an attempt to escape or resolve family problems. Once homeless, their risk for mental health challenges such as PTSD and depression, suicide, drug abuse and addiction, and HIV/AIDS increases3. Resulting from the instability of living on the streets, these young people also face many challenges when it comes to performing well in school, setting them up for additional challenges later in life. STRIVE (Support To Reunite, Involve and Value Each Other) helps homeless and runaway youth, and juvenile justice system involved youth who are returning to their communities by reuniting and reconnecting the family in order to provide these young people with a support system that they can count on.
Homeless and runaway youth and juvenile justice system involved youth often experience a vicious cycle of running away, returning home to face unresolved conflict, and feeling the need run away again as an attempt at resolving the conflict. One study, that interviewed homeless youth during shelter stays, found that over half of those who participated had either been told to leave by a parent or felt that their parents did not care that they were gone4. STRIVE aims to break the cycle of homelessness by working with the youth and their families to build skills that will help them better communicate, bond, and support each other. These skills provide families with the tools they need to resolve conflict, reducing the likelihood that the child will feel the need to run away again. By building on a family’s current strengths, STRIVE encourages problem solving, conflict negotiations, and role clarifications. While enrolled in STRIVE, families meet with a trained specialist over a series of five sessions. The sessions focus on a variety of skills that encourage family bonding such as love and affirmation, problem solving, coping, and negotiation.
The STRIVE program has been shown to improve youth health and behavioral outcomes, and reduce risky behaviors5. STRIVE also offers training and consultation to service providers working with youth. To date, STRIVE has been implemented with 151 families in Los Angeles County and the surrounding areas. The program is also being implemented within the juvenile justice system.
For more information about the STRIVE Program visit: http://nfrc.ucla.edu/STRIVE
4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(b). Report to the Congress on the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program of the Family and Youth Services Bureau for Fiscal Year 1995,1996. Available for $3.15 from the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth, P. O. Box 13505, Silver Spring, MD 20911-3505; 301-608-8098.
5Milburn, N. G., Iribarren, F. J., Rice, E., Lightfoot, M., Solorio, R., Rotheram-Borus, M. J., ... & Duan, N. (2012). A family intervention to reduce sexual risk behavior, substance use, and delinquency among newly homeless youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50(4), 358-364.