Homeless adolescents: common clinical concerns

Semin Pediatr Infect Dis. 2003 Jan;14(1):6-11. doi: 10.1053/spid.2003.127211.


Homeless youth are at alarmingly high risk for a myriad of physical and psychological problems as a result of both the circumstances that prededed their homelessness, and as a direct consequence of life on the streets. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy, trauma, tuberculosis, uncontrolled asthma, and dermatologic infestations are a few of the health problems with which these youth commonly present. These somatic problems are compounded by high rates of drug and alcohol abuse as well as depression and suicide. Despite the obvious need for medical services, homeless youth often do not receive appropriate medical care due to numerous individual and systems barriers impeding health care access by this population. In addition to the barriers experienced by the adult homeless population, homeless adolescents confront further hurdles stemming from their age and developmental stage. Some of these impediments include a lack of knowledge of clinic sites, fear of not being taken seriously, concerns about confidentiality, and fears of police or social services involvement. Improved access to appropriate health care is necessary if we are to better support and care for this population of young people. To effectively manage and treat homeless youth, individual providers must be aware of the diagnoses associated with homelessness, as well as the community resources available to these youth. Finally, providers need to be the voices advocating for improved services for this disadvantaged and silent population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology
  • Homeless Youth / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology