Homeless youth: Barriers and facilitators for service referrals

Emma B. Black, Izabela E. Fedyszyn, Helen Mildred, Rhianna Perkin, Richard Lough, Peter Brann, Cheryl Ritter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Young people who are homeless and experiencing mental health issues are reluctant to use relevant services for numerous reasons. Youth are also at risk of disengaging from services at times of referral to additional or alternative services. This study aimed to identify barriers and facilitators for inter-service referrals for homeless youth with mental health issues who have already engaged with a service. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with homeless youth (n = 10), homelessness support workers (n = 10), and mental health clinicians (n = 10). Barriers included: resource shortages; programs or services having inflexible entry criteria; complexity of service systems; homeless youth feeling devalued; and a lack of communication between services, for example, abrupt referrals with no follow up. Referral facilitators included: services providers offering friendly and client-centred support; supported referrals; awareness of other services; and collaboration between services. Relationships with service providers and inter-service collaboration appeared essential for successful referrals for homeless youth. These facilitating factors may be undermined by sector separation and siloing, as well as resource shortages in both the homelessness and mental health sectors. Service transitions may be conceptualised as a genuine service outcome for homeless youth, and as a basis for successful future service provision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-12
Number of pages6
JournalEvaluation and Program Planning
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Homeless youth
  • Homelessness
  • Mental health
  • Service referrals
  • Youth

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