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August 4, 2004

Street Youth Mortality: Leaning With Intent to Fall

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Section of Adolescent Medicine, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, La.

JAMA. 2004;292(5):624-626. doi:10.1001/jama.292.5.624

The words "street youth" conjure different images for each reader based on experience or suppositions. Clinicians who are newly introduced to a group of homeless or marginally housed adolescents and young adults are invariably surprised by what they had never noticed before. They begin to recognize young people on the street they had previously ignored and identify street youth among their own patients. Street youth are often invisible, blending into the urban, suburban, or rural landscape. To complicate matters, street youth do not identify themselves as homeless or marginally housed unless such identifiers provide a specific advantage. Even then, street youth often resist the label because they stereotype homeless people as substance-abusing adults who should be avoided as dangerous, not individuals with whom to identify. Alternatively, street youth often depict themselves as adventurers and self-determined individualists who are living life on their own terms. Even those with a long history of neglect and abuse rarely tolerate being treated like dependents or objects of pity.