Adolescent development and poverty & homelessness

Plan Author

  • Kathleen Mackin, 2017

Fields of Concentration

  • Psychology
  • Writing

Sample Courses

Project Description

Practical and philosophical prospectus for a nonprofit organization running a homeless shelter.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Tom Toleno
  • Jennifer Girouard
  • John Sheehy

Outside Evaluator

  • Jude Smith Rachele, Abundant Sun


This Plan is a study of the psychological, social, and personal dimensions of poverty among young people, with a special emphasis on the role of nonprofits in providing services to homeless youth. It includes a paper on adolescent development, poverty, and homelessness, a paper on harm reduction for homeless adolescents, and an exam of essays responding to questions about theory and policy applied to poverty, drug use, and homeless youth. It also includes podcasts about the benefits of mentoring and about the use of Naloxone to reverse the effects of opioid overdose.


Kathleen: A person who has experienced a non-fatal overdose could have brain damage from lack of oxygen, or other serious side effects. Naloxone allows for a quick intervention and is an easy and safe way to prevent deaths and reduce harm for people who use opioids.
Nels: For many people it is then the wake up call, and I personally would not want to make the distinction in which lives are worth saving and which are not. I take the position that every life is worth saving.
Kathleen: Harm reduction helps to meet people where they are, prevent deaths and to prevent the transmission of blood born viruses and other diseases through education, and programs like the methadone clinics and syringe exchanges, including training and distribution for Naloxone.

One of the main causes of adolescent homelessness is conflict within the family household. Adolescents understand when they are in jeopardy and can often figure ways out of that crisis, even if it leads to a different risk. This is the position with teenagers who remove themselves from their home because of abuse, whether it is emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. They will move out of their homes hoping to find a safer place to live. Studies “indicate approximately two-thirds of homeless youth came from broken homes and at least half experienced severe physical abuse.” Teenagers who feel as if they are not cared about within the home are more likely to leave their homes as well, as is the case with neglected teenagers. When the security of a home is compromised teenagers know that it is a good idea to get away from these problems. Adolescence is an important time to be at home and be receiving support from family.

Mentoring not only helps reduce risky behaviors, but allows for many other opportunities. Youth with mentors will have the chance to create social bonds, which in turn increases social capital and opportunity for the future. Mentoring creates resilience in youth, allowing them to overcome hardship. A mentee will see a mentor as a role model, someone modeling a positive and productive life where the mentees can see how education and employment can have beneficial payback to an individual. Self-confidence, self-esteem, reduced risky behaviors, excitement for education, and more positive relationships are all benefits associated with youth having a mentor. These benefits are strongest with long-term relationships. A mentee will have someone that they can count on when sometimes they don’t have anyone else to count on.