Published June 1, 2015
Congratulations to Assistant Professor Elizabeth Bowen who was awarded a Baldy Research Grant (2015-2016) titled, “Informing Housing and Social Policy through Community-Based Research on Homelessness among Emerging Adults in Erie County.” Her research partner is the Homeless Alliance of WNY.
The developmental period of emerging adulthood—considered to be from 18 to 24 years of age—is associated with an increased risk of experiencing homelessness. In Erie County, data from the Homeless Alliance of Western New York indicate that approximately 200 individuals in this demographic access emergency shelters annually, with likely many more in need of housing but not utilizing the shelter system. Previous research has identified numerous barriers to emerging adults using shelters and other homeless services, including disagreement with program rules, distrust of service providers, and safety concerns. In addition, many emerging adults who lack stable housing are the “hidden homeless” (e.g. those who “couch surf” or squat in vacant buildings) and may not necessarily self-identify as homeless or actively seek housing assistance. Very little empirical research has been conducted on homelessness among emerging adults in Buffalo or other Rust Belt cities, where both climate and socioeconomic factors may shape the context of homelessness in distinctive ways. This project will examine multiple dimensions of homelessness among emerging adults in Erie County, including the factors that contribute to homelessness for this population, the risks that may be associated with different types of unstable housing situations, and emerging adults’ service needs, preferences, and barriers. This project adopts a qualitative, cross-sectional research design utilizing a grounded theory approach and will be conducted in partnership with the Homeless Alliance and other community agencies. Findings from the study will be shared with local policymakers and service providers to inform policy and best practices.