Predictors of Retention in an Alcohol and Risky Sex Prevention Program for Homeless Young Adults

Published in: Prevention Science [Epub January 2018]. doi: 10.1007/s11121-018-0866-9

Posted on RAND.org on April 03, 2018

by Eric R. Pedersen, Brett Ewing, Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Jeremy N. V. Miles, Ann C. Haas, Joan S. Tucker

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Homeless young adults are at risk for alcohol and other drug (AOD) use and risky sexual behavior. Interventions are needed to help these young people reduce their risky behavior, but this population is often difficult to engage and retain in services. We offered a four-session AOD and risky sex reduction program to 100 participants and examined if retention in the program was predicted by a number of factors: demographics, homelessness severity, other service use, AOD behaviors, mental health symptoms, sexual risk behaviors, and readiness to change AOD and condom use. Nearly half (48%) of participants completed all sessions. In bivariate analyses, participants were significantly less likely to be retained in the program if they had slept outdoors in the past month, engaged in more alcohol and marijuana use, experienced more alcohol-related consequences, and received the program in an urban drop-in center (as opposed to a drop-in center near the beach). When controlling for all significant bivariate relationships, only sleeping outdoors and receipt of the program in the urban setting predicted fewer sessions completed. The most endorsed reasons for program non-completion were being too busy to attend and inconvenient day/time of the program. Findings can help outreach staff and researchers better prepare methods to engage higher risk homeless youth and retain them in services. Finding unique ways to help youth overcome barriers related to location of services appears especially necessary, perhaps by bringing services to youth where they temporarily reside or offering meaningful incentives for program attendance.

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