Background: Street-connected youth are a neglected and vulnerable population, particularly in resource-constrained settings. The development of interventions and supports for this population requires insight into how they live. This study describes the social and economic characteristics of a convenience sample of street youth (SY) in Eldoret, Kenya.
Methods: Participants were eligible if they were aged 12-21, living in Eldoret, spending days only (part-time), or nights and days on the street (full-time) and able and willing to consent or assent. Data were collected using a standardized interview conducted in English or Kiswahili. Binary dependent variables were having been arrested and/or jailed, and first priority for spending money (food vs. other). Nominal categorical dependent variables included major source of support, and major reason for being street-involved. Multivariable analysis used logistic regression models to examine the association of gender and level of street-involvement with social and economic factors of interest adjusting for age and length of time on the street. Data were analyzed using SAS 9.3.
Results: Of the 200 SY enrolled, 41% were female, mean age of 16.3 years; 71% were on the street full-time, and 29% part-time. Compared with part-time SY, full-time SY were more likely to have been arrested (Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR]: 2.33, 95% Confidence Interval [95%CI]:1.01-5.35), name food as their first spending priority (AOR: 2.57, 95%CI:1.03-6.45), have left home due to violence (AOR: 5.54, 95%CI: 1.67-18.34), and more likely to report friends on the street as a major source of support (AOR: 3.59, 95% CI: 1.01-12.82). Compared with females, males were more likely to have ever been arrested (AOR: 2.66, 95%CI:1.14-6.18), and to have ever been jailed (AOR: 3.22, 95%CI:1.47-7.02).
Conclusions: These results suggest a high degree of heterogeneity and vulnerability among SY in this setting. There is an urgent need for interventions taking into consideration these characteristics.