Recruitment and Retention of Homeless Youth in a Substance Use and HIV-risk Reduction Program
Published in: Field Methods [Epub October 2017]. doi: 10.1177/1525822X17728346
Posted on RAND.org on October 13, 2017
Conducting intervention studies with homeless populations can be difficult, particularly in terms of retaining participants across multiple sessions and locating them for subsequent follow-up assessments. Homeless youth are even more challenging to engage due to substance use, mental health problems, wariness of authority figures, and frequent relocations. This article describes methods used to successfully recruit a sample of 200 homeless youth from two drop-in centers in Los Angeles, engage them in a four-session substance use and sexual risk reduction program (79% of youth attended multiple sessions), and retain 91% of the full sample at a three-month follow-up assessment. Our experience indicates that utilizing structured project materials and having a small dedicated staff are essential to recruitment and retention efforts for intervention studies with homeless youth. Using these and other nontraditional methods are likely necessary to engage this at-risk yet hard-to-reach population.