Author ORCID Identifier


Date of Award

Summer 8-8-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Harry J Heiman, MD, MPH

Second Advisor

Kimberley Freire, Ph.D., MPH

Third Advisor

Jasmine Cunningham, MPH



Using Community-Based Participatory Research to Assess the Service Needs of Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Atlanta


Jasmine Aurella Rockwell Heard

BACKGROUND: Over 27,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 experience homelessness on any night in the United States. Across the U.S., there are homeless response systems designed to combat homelessness. However, homeless youth often reject homeless and medical services aimed at older homeless adults and families because they are not developmentally suitable and other reasons not clearly understood. This study used community-based participatory research (CBPR) to assess the current service needs and barriers experienced by homeless youth aged 18-24 in Atlanta, Georgia.

METHODS: Study participants were engaged to assess the current service needs of homeless youth aged 18-24 in Atlanta, GA. Ten participants, including four Atlanta Continuum of Care (CoC) Youth Action Board Members (YAB) and six youth experiencing homelessness participated in focused discussions centered around identifying service and program needs and barriers to access. Additionally, the six homeless youth participants participated in a Photovoice project and were asked to take photos to address two prompts aimed at exploring youth service needs. Youth then met to discuss their photos as well as provide recommendations for addressing existing gaps and barriers. The research team analyzed collected data and selected themes that represented the Photovoice study. The homeless youth reviewed and approved the chosen themes in a final focused discussion session.

RESULTS: YAB-focused discussions generated a list of current programs and services targeted to homeless youth in the Atlanta CoC, as well as service/program recommendations. The Photovoice analysis resulted in nine major themes and participants generated a list of service recommendations based on the identified themes. Overarching recommendations focused on improving and expanding services, ongoing provider training and increased youth staff, monitoring and removal of discriminative practices and Anti-Housing First policies, improving marketing, and promoting cross-sector partnerships in Atlanta.

CONCLUSION: Using CBPR to leverage the wisdom and lived experiences of homeless youth, this research identified critical unmet needs as well as actionable steps to address gaps and barriers to youth-directed homeless services. Engaging with homeless youth is a critical strategy for advancing life opportunities and health equity in this important population.


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