Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Homeless youth-Sexual behavior, Homeless youth-Psychology, Gay youth-Sexual behavior, Gay youth-Psychology, Resilience (Personality trait), Homeless youth, Sexuality, Queer, LGBTQ issues, Family norms, Sexual health, HIV, Substance abuse, Homeless youth-Social conditions


Scholarly literature on sexuality and homeless youth has focused almost exclusively on young people nested within a culture of risk on the streets. This study broadens the body of work on this population by exploring how homeless and runaway youth in Los Angeles make meaning of their sexualities. While these individuals are extremely vulnerable and fragile, they also display remarkable resilience. Researchers conducted two sets of in person, semi-structured interviews with six homeless youth at a homeless service agency in Los Angeles as part of an HIV peer intervention project. The interviews focused on sex education and messages about sexuality, as well as the youths' participation in the project. Five additional interviews were conducted in which the youth interviewed one another, which took the form of testimonial videos about their sexual experiences. Sexual identity, sexual activity, family norms about sexuality, STI and HIV prevention, and substance abuse were salient themes in the sexual lives of many youth. The youth discussed issues of homophobia, family abuse, and situations of extreme risk, but they also focused on supportive peer relationships, processing and understanding sexuality, and the importance of using protection when engaging in sexual behaviors. Nuanced descriptions of sexuality among homeless youth is crucial in order to help social workers and other professionals understand the complex and difficult realities weathered by this population on a regular basis.




iii, 56 p. : col. ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 46-51)