Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Eric R. Wright

Second Advisor

Erin Ruel

Third Advisor

Amy Spring


The number of people who are temporarily sleeping in motels while experiencing homelessness is unknown and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) makes no effort to enumerate this population. Estimates exist for youth enrolled in K-12 school and for those who enter the shelter system after a motel, but runaway and homeless youth are more likely to sleep unsheltered (Henry et al. 2020) and avoid systems where they might be counted (Prock and Kennedy 2020), making those who are not enrolled in school and using motels as a form of temporary shelter a hidden population. Motels are often characterized in the literature as unclean, crowded, unsafe places to live, and are second only to commercial brothels as sites for sexual exploitation (Paraskevas and Brookes 2018). Using survey data and field notes from the 2018 Atlanta Youth Count, I explore the demographic characteristics and health of youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) in motels compared to other locations. I also explore the likelihood of experiencing sex and labor trafficking among youth in motels compared to other locations. Using descriptive statistics, bivariate, and logistic regression analyses, I find that YEH in motels share many unique characteristics, a higher likelihood of ever experiencing human trafficking, and higher rates of substance use compared to people sleeping elsewhere. My findings are corroborated by qualitative data analysis of field notes collected at the motels in the study. This research helps illuminate a population of the hidden homeless that require enumeration, resources, and policy.


File Upload Confirmation


Available for download on Saturday, April 25, 2026