Connections Among the Homeless Youth

As part of the Delaney Grant, we explored homeless youth at a local Homeless Shelter Network (HSN) to understand how do emerging adults experiencing homelessness use technology to participate in homeless shelter network programs and meet their daily needs?—which led to discussions with participants about both perceived and real risks they faced in using technology, as well as their strategies for managing those risks.


  • 90 minutes (Q&A/design activity) + 10-15 minutes (consent/demographics)

→ 45 minutes Q&A + 30 minutes “Magical Thinking” + 15 minutes debrief

  • Semi-structured interview guide with key questions around identified research themes:

trust and relationships

space, time, and health

connections and community

  • 60 minute follow up interview



Participants unearthed a new set of barriers in their approaches to using technology. Previous barriers, access to Wi-Fi or devices, which had prevented sheltered emerging adults from engaging with technology have since been eradicated. Initially, we implored how sheltered emerging adults incorporated technology into their daily practices to carry out the goals of the organization but found that participants were not efficiently using technology to complete activities and meet these goals because of the explicit risks.

To further articulate the technology use context and challenges of our participants, we elaborate on the following: (1) perceived risks – risks participants described in salacious or exciting terms and how no direct experience to point to as evidence; (2) socialized risks – risks of interacting with known people, like family, or making new connections that may derail the HSN program for individuals if they are influenced to make poor decisions; and (3) structural risks – risks that persist despite participants having access and means to tap into technological solution.

Below find several of the design artifacts used to challenge participants thinking as they drew their solutions to identified problems within the group design sessions.

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Currently, I am writing up the findings from the initial research for a conference submission in the Fall. Stay tuned!