Every year, 4.2 million young people in the US experience some level of homelessness. A lack of pet-friendly policies leaves unhoused youth with pets excluded from housing, health, and other related services. Disaffiliation from services makes exiting the streets and thriving as young adults very difficult. A growing body of research suggests that pet ownership represents a critical asset in unhoused young peoples’ lives. Because animals operate as an essential asset, but significant barrier to services, for young people, there is a critical need to reform service systems so that young people can preserve relationships with their pet and access services for health, housing security, and thriving.
The objective of the proposed study is to develop a multi-perspective strategy for reforming housing service systems to support unhoused young people with pets.
Researchers hypothesize that youth and housing system staff, holding unique system vantage points, will identify concrete processes and resources needed to implement a recently proposed Multilevel Intervention Framework for supporting unhoused youth with pets.
An innovative approach will combine qualitative phenomenological and participatory methods through semi-structured individual interviews with 20 unhoused youth with pets and 20 housing system providers and administrators. Interviews will be coded using an inductive approach to identify, based on youth and service provider perspectives, what strategies are needed to implement the recently proposed Multilevel Intervention Framework. An a priori coding template that uses four key tenets of critical management studies will be used to assess participants’ experiences of the power differentials that underpin systemic and structural barriers to preserving young people’s access to pet-associated resources.
Researchers anticipate gaining a comprehensive understanding of how young people navigate the competing needs for housing security and the developmental assets associated with pet ownership, how existing housing service systems shape young people’s relationships with pets, and recommendations for how system-level changes to preserve unhoused young people’s relationships with pets can be pragmatically implemented.