Cell Phones as Vital as Food to Homeless Youth

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Last updated May 2, 2019

The first thing that homeless young people spend any money on in Los Angeles is not food, shelter or even clothing but on a cell phone.  According to the results of the a USC study that has been published in December’s issue of the Journal of Urban Health, the not so humble cell phone is viewed as being one of the most vital resources for homeless young people today.

USC Social Work Professor Eric Rice, who served as the lead author of the study, says that two years ago back in 2009 two co-authors and he himself undertook a study of around 200 homeless young people between the age of 18 and 24 in the Hollywood, California area.  They found that up to 62 percent of homeless youth owned new or old cell phones; a number that Rice claims has only risen since then.  Of those homeless youth with a cellular device, 17 percent used it in order to contact their social worker or case worker, with 36 percent using to contact their current or potential employer, 41 percent used it to contact their parents, and as many as 51 percent used it to stay in touch with friends.

“The study stemmed from a conversation I was having with homeless teens a few years ago,” says Rice.  “I was talking to them about how they were connecting with positive influences in their lives like family members or friends.  They told me repeatedly that they were using cell phones to connect with these folks.”