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The social construction of homeless youth

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Title:
The social construction of homeless youth the public policy of collaboration
Creator:
Van Leeuwen, James Michael
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English
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xvi, 276 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Homeless youth -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Social psychology ( lcsh )
Homeless youth ( fast )
Social psychology ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 257-276).
Statement of Responsibility:
by James Michael Van Leeuwen.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
182721712 ( OCLC )
ocn182721712
Classification:
LD1193.P86 2007d V36 ( lcc )

Full Text
THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF HOMELESS YOUTH:
THE PUBLIC POLICY OF COLLABORATION
by
James Michael Van Leeuwen
B.A., Creighton University, 1996
M.P.H., Tulane University, 1997
M.A., Tulane University, 1999
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
In partial fulfillment of the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Public Affairs
2007


2007 by James Michael Van Leeuwen
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
James Michael Van Leeuwen
has been approved
by
Kathleen Beatty
Don KHngner
Jean Scandlyn
K Vi 0^_________________________
Date


Van Leeuwen, James M. (Ph.D. Public Affairs)
The Social Construction of Homeless Youth: The Public Policy of Collaboration
Thesis directed by Professor Peter deLeon
ABSTRACT
This dissertation examines the social constructions that the public, private and
nonprofit sectors form of homeless youth in Denver, Colorado. The purpose of
this thesis is to determine how these social constructions are articulated and,
furthermore, to identify the public policy implications to facilitating collaboration
across sectors and reducing youth homelessness in alignment with Denvers Road
Home, the City and County of Denvers Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. A
review of current research provides an accurate description of the situation of
homeless youth in Denver, emphasizing heightened rates of substance abuse,
mental illness and abuse. Semi-structured qualitative interviews with subjects
representing the public, private and nonprofit sectors serves as contextual data for
the quantitative survey and supports the conclusion that there is not one
monolithic view of homeless youth characterizing homeless youth as either
deviant or dependent. The small sample size (N= 6) of the qualitative data limits
our ability to draw limited conclusions from these responses; however, the
interviews illustrate accountability and emphasize involving youth as participants
and engaging them in the work force as a means to shift social constructions in a
more positive direction. These findings are reinforced by an online survey
distributed to the public, private and nonprofit sectors in Denver. This sample


(.N=266) suggests that both sector and gender matter; although nonprobability
sampling limits generalizability and sets the stage for future research based on
findings. The public sector is significantly more likely to view homeless youth as
deviant and men are significantly more likely than women to view homeless
youth as deviant. This dissertation suggests that to shift social constructions of
homeless youth it is important that they are active participants in dialogue with
the public, private and nonprofit sectors and that they are involved in educating all
three sectors about the issues confronting them.
Conclusions: Overall, actors are more likely to construct homeless youth as
dependent and there is a willingness to let homeless youth participate in the policy
and decision making process. However, actors in the public, private and
nonprofit sectors differentially construct this population. The public sector is
significantly more likely than the private and nonprofit sectors to construct
homeless youth as deviant. Homeless youth, when viewed in terms of social
construction, can be shifted (e.g. from the deviant to the dependent category)
via public, private and non-profit sector collaboration and constituent
participation. This shift is possible by engaging homeless youth in the workforce
as well as through public participation of homeless youth both in dialogue and in
educating the public, private and nonprofit sectors about youth homelessness.
There is a need to more clearly define social construction categories as outlined
by Schneider & Ingram (1993; 1997; 2005) in order for this theory to inform
public policy as it relates to issues such as youth homelessness.


This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed:
Dr. Peter deLeon, Dissertation Chair
Date: it , 2007


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The completion of this dissertation would not have been possible without the
commitment and passion of mentors, advisors, consultants and homeless youth
that I have worked with during the past decade. This dissertation is dedicated to
the late Dr. Franklin James, who introduced me to the world of public policy and
the doctoral program at the University of Colorado at Denver Graduate School of
Public Affairs in the spring of 2002.
Predating my work with Franklin, it is important to acknowledge the
remarking influence that Dr. Gary Leak at Creighton University had in shaping
my transition from loft pursuit of medicine to a far nobler journey into
researching and reaching out to the poor and underserved. I want to acknowledge
the passion and commitment of the staff at Urban Peak, especially Roxane White
and Jerene Petersen, who took a chance on me coming out of graduate school at
Tulane University and invited me to run their street outreach programs. Their
mentoring, guidance and commitment to serving the poor inspired me and moved
this dissertation forward in ways I never anticipated. I am grateful for the advice
and consult from Tamara Hoxworth at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division of
the State of Colorado who continues to guide me in my work, making sure I am
always aware of the difference between a Chi Square and an analysis of variance.
Many thanks to my dear friend and colleague Jean Scandlyn who introduced me
to the world of ethnography and provided me with an entirely new lens with
which to view the world of homeless youth. Through Jean, I met Suzanne


Discenza, and our research trio was complete as we embarked on rolling out a
more focused and strategic research agenda at Urban Peak to follow in the very
big foot steps of Franklin James.
I am honored to acknowledge the funding support from the Bonfils-Stanton
Livingston Fellowship, and more specifically John Livingston and Dorothy
Horrell, who lit a fire under me and told me to finish up! I am equally grateful
for the opportunity to work under the leadership and administration of Mayor
John Hickenlooper, a visionary dedicated to using his political will to reach out to
the poor and underserved in Denver to assist the homeless in living life off of the
streets.
To my parents, Mary and Jim Van Leeuwen, my sister Janene, and my partner
Michael Niyompong, who have patiently (and at times impatiently) believed that
one day I would finish my Ph.D., thank you for your gentle guidance and
consummate support over the years. To my other committee members, Kathleen
Beatty, and Don Klingner, who have guided me in the completion of this
dissertation and believed that this work could make a contribution to the literature
in our understanding of an underserved population of young people. And finally,
very special thanks to Peter deLeon who has been by my side every step of the
way and picked up where Franklin James left off. For your mentorship, wisdom,
advice and consult, Peter, I am forever grateful for this incredible journey.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Figures...........................................................xiv
Tables............................................................xv
Chapter
1. Statement of the Problem.....................................1
1.1 Introduction.................................................1
1.2 Public, Private and Non-profit Collaboration................11
1.3 The Policy Problem..........................................15
1.4 Policy Implications.........................................18
1.5 Thesis Overview.............................................20
2. Background & Literature Review..............................22
2.1 Overview....................................................22
2.2 Characterizing Youth Homelessness...........................23
2.3 Collaboration...............................................31
2.3.1 Public Sector...............................................32
2.3.2 Private Sector..............................................35
IX


2.3.3 Non-profit Sector.............................................38
2.3.4 Homeless Youth as Consumers...................................39
3. Theoretical Framework.........................................41
3.1 Overview......................................................41
3.2 Social Construction Theory....................................42
3.2.1 Limitations of Social Construction Theory.....................49
3.3 Constituent Participation.....................................52
3.3.1 Limitations of Constituent Participation Theory...............59
3.4 Collaboration Theory..........................................60
3.4.1 Limitations of Collaboration Theory...........................64
3.5 Youth Development Theory......................................65
3.5.1 Limitations of Youth Development Theory.......................69
3.6 Summary.......................................................69
4. Methodology...................................................71
4.1 Research Question and Propositions............................71
4.1.1 Propositions..................................................74
4.2 Data Set and Sampling.........................................77
4.2.1 Qualitative Data..............................................78
4.2.2 Quantitative Data.............................................79
4.2.3 Qualitative Data Sample.......................................80
x


4.2.4 Survey Sample.................................................85
4.2.5 Homeless Youth Sample (Scandlyn Data Set 2000)............... 88
4.3 Limitations...................................................89
4.4 Reliability and Validity......................................93
4.5 Summary.......................................................98
5. Results......................................................100
5.1 Overview.....................................................100
5.2 Pilot Data Overview..........................................101
5.2.1 Private Sector...............................................102
5.2.2 Public Sector................................................109
5.2.3 Nonprofit Sector.............................................115
5.3 Homeless Youth Overview (Scandlyn 2000)..................... 122
5.3.1 Private Sector...............................................123
5.3.2 Public Sector................................................125
5.3.3 Nonprofit Sector.............................................126
5.3.4 Homeless Youth...............................................127
5.3.5 Homeless Youth on Collaboration..............................128
5.3.6 Public Participation.........................................130
5.4 Quantitative Findings........................................132
5.4.1 Descriptives.................................................132
5.5 Analysis.....................................................157
xi


5.5.1 Sector Analysis...............................................158
5.5.2 Gender Analysis...............................................160
5.5.3 Race Analysis.................................................161
5.5.4 Age Analysis..................................................162
5.5.5 Interaction Effects...........................................162
5.5.6 Analysis Limitations..........................................163
6. Discussion....................................................168
6.1 Propositions................................................. 168
6.2 Public Policy Implications....................................175
6.3 Limitations...................................................185
7. Conclusions...................................................194
7.1 Introduction..................................................194
7.2 General Observations..........................................196
7.3 Effects on Theory.............................................214
7.4 Future Research...............................................217
7.5 Conclusion....................................................225
Appendix............................................................227
A Scandlyn Semi-structured Interview Format.....................227
B Service Provider Semi-structured Interview Format.............232
C Human Subjects Applications Form..............................234
D Interview Debriefing and Consent Form.........................244
xii


E Perceptions of Youth Homelessness Survey.......................246
F Human Subjects Research Protocol #2006-019 Social Construction
of Homeless Youth: The Public Policy of Collaboration........250
G District Police Stations.......................................252
H Tables of Statistical Significance.............................253
References..........................................................257
xiii


LIST OF FIGURES
Figure
1.1 An Overview of Homeless Youth in Denver, Colorado....10
5.4.1 Gender Breakdown.....................................134
5.4.2 Ethnic Breakdown.....................................135
5.4.3 Sector Breakdown.....................................137
5.4.4 Social Constructions of Homeless Youth...............140
5.4.5 Most Accurate Constructions of Homeless Youth........141
5.4.6 Shifting Social Constructions........................142
5.4.7 Perception of Homeless Youth Behavior................143
5.4.8 Perception that Most Homeless Youth Break the Law....144
5.4.9 Perception of Youth Homelessness.................... 145
5.4.10 Perception of Homeless Youth as a Problem............146
5.4.11 Perception of How Many Youth Hanging Out on Streets
are Homeless........................................147
5.4.12 Perception Homeless Youth are Homeless by Choice.....148
5.4.13 Perception that Homeless Youth Could Exit the Streets with
the Right Resources.................................149
5.4.14 Social Constructions of the Public Sector............151
5.4.15 Social Constructions of the Private Sector...........151
5.4.16 Social Constructions of the Nonprofit Sector.........152
xiv


5.4.17
5.4.18
5.4.19
5.4.20
5.4.21
Perception of Participation Involving Homeless Youth.... 153
Perception that Youth Should be Equal Participants in
Solving Youth Homelessness...........................154
Perception that Public, Private and Nonprofit Sectors
Collaborating Effectively in Denver..................155
Perception that Sectors are Responsible and Accountable to
the Needs of Homeless Youth..........................156
Perception that Sectors Need to be Held More Accountable in
Working with Homeless Youth..........................157
xv


LIST OF TABLES
Table
4.2.3 Theoretical Frames of Pilot Survey Data..................83
4.2.4 Sampling Overview........................................87
4.4 Overview of Survey Sample Questions......................96
5.3.1 One Word Descriptions for Homeless Youth................139
5.5 Statistically Significant Survey Findings...............164
7.3.1 Illustrations of Social Constructions across Sectors....199
7.4.1 Overview of Conclusions, Limitations, and Policy
Recommendations........................................224
xvi


1. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
1.1: Introduction
A citizen survey report released in January 2007 by the City & County of Denver
ranks homelessness as the biggest problem in the city for the first time since the
study began in 2002, ahead of traffic congestion, population growth and drugs
(Migoya 2007). Nationally, Robertson & Toro (1998) estimated that every year there
are 1.6 million homeless and runaway youth in the United States. Although dated,
this is one of the most recent population estimates available. Wright et al. (1998: 32)
advise caution in interpreting any count of the homeless as a result of the many
thorny issues that have to be resolved in order to make a case for an accurate count
of the homeless.
In Denver alone, over 600 young people sleep on the streets each night, marking a
50 percent increase in youth homelessness in the past two years and a three-fold
increase in this population in less than a decade (DAlanno 1998; DAlanno 2002;
DAlanno 2005; DAlanno 2006). In October 2003, Denver Mayor John
Hickenlooper created the Denver Homeless Commission, involving 41 stakeholders
from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, charging them with the mandate of
ending homelessness in ten years (City and County of Denver 2005).
In a local education publication, Jane Urschel (2004) asked if todays youth will
be reporting on a republic that depends upon the allegiance and participation of its
1


citizens, or the diminution of the American citizen, a citizen viewed by his or her
government as a hindrance rather than a help? As the homeless youth population
increases and questions such as Urschels circulate outside of the academy, this
dissertation proposes that the answer to this question depends on the public policy
surrounding civic collaboration; that is, how the community of relevant actors
involved with the homeless do business together towards a defined purpose.
These public policy efforts can be significantly hindered or accelerated by the
social constructions built regarding the homeless (Le Roux et al. 1998). According to
Schneider & Ingram (2005: 1), Since time immemorial, human societies have
constructed differences between people like themselves and the unfamiliar others,
who often are viewed with distrust, dislike, and even hatred. Le Roux et al. (1998:
903) agree as they suggest that the widely held view of street children as delinquents
and pests is largely responsible for inhumane treatment meted out to them. This
dissertation examines the social constructions that actors from the public, private and
nonprofit sectors form of homeless youth in Denver, Colorado and suggests ways in
which its concepts can be employed to improve the plight of homeless youth. The
intention of this dissertation is not to reify sectors when referring to the public,
private and nonprofit sectors. Rather, this research focuses on the individual actors
representing each of these sectors and their respective attitudes, perceptions and
experiences subject to how they institutionalize them in public policy. For purposes
2


of this dissertation, unless stated otherwise, public, private and nonprofit sectors
assume the individual actors that are represented by these categories.
From this overview, this thesis considers the public policy possibilities and
implications of moving over 600 homeless youth off of the streets in accordance with
the City of Denvers Ten-year Plan to End Homelessness (City and County of Denver
2005) also known as Denvers Road Home (www.DenversRoadHome.org). Utilizing
existing data generated from the Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative, Urban
Peak public health surveys, and an ethnographic study addressing homeless youth in
Denver, this dissertation further taps into social constructions of homeless youth
formed by the public, private and nonprofit sectors. The purpose is to provide a more
comprehensive overview of youth homelessness in Denver to more effectively
structure a collaborative vein of public policy in response to the problems posed by
this growing population of young people. Incorporating and improving on
contemporary policy theory, understanding social constructions is important because
it makes good political and administrative sense (deLeon 2005: 636).
This dissertation represents an important initial attempt to tie together existing
research and data to offer a fuller portrait of this challenging social issue and to
inform urban policy makers. Homeless youth face many obstacles on the streets that
disconnect them from meaningful citizenship and public participation. Social
constructions can further malign and impede this interface. This research has the
3


capacity to inform social construction and public participation theory toward
engaging homeless youth as citizens and moving toward a more positive social
construction of this population that is essential to identity, to allegiance, to the state,
to a sense of efficacy related to participation, to social mobilization, and to political
participation of all sorts (Ingram & Schneider 2006: 287). As Ingram and Schneider
(2005: 5) write, policy is dynamic in the sense that government administrators
anchor, legitimize, or change social constructions. It is through social constructions
that governments powerfully support or undercut widespread practices of social
separation (Ingram & Schneider 2005: 5). Le Roux et al. (1998: 906) speak to the
varied perceptions of social workers, child care workers, educators, business people
and researchers with respect to homeless youth and argue that street children need to
be treated in context, with an emphasis on strengthening community initiatives and
programs.
The three themes social construction theory, collaborative policy making and
discursive democracy frame this dissertation to facilitate our understanding and
provide more effective policy to a perceived deviant group in an effort to reorient
the polity toward a more balanced set of knowledge and value orientations and a more
balanced democracy (Schneider & Ingram 1997: 12). In examining the three
respective perspectives held by actors in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, this
thesis attempts to determine how public (or constituent) participation involving
4


homeless youth factors, if at all, into effective collaborative models among the public,
private and nonprofit sectors such that the findings better inform public management
to be more democratic in the focus of its scholarship and practice (deLeon and
deLeon 2002: 229).
With estimates ranging as high as 1.6 million homeless and runway youth on our
nations streets every year, existing research has effectively limited the research
perspective to coastal metropolitan cities such as New York, San Francisco and Los
Angeles (Robertson & Toro 1998). Excluding some of the recent research efforts at
Denvers Urban Peak Homeless Youth Shelter, there are few recorded efforts to study
this population in-depth in the smaller metropolitan cities such as Denver. Slesnick et
al. (2000: 221) underscore that homeless and runaway youth is an understudied and
ignored population, primarily due to methodological challenges in locating, treating
and retaining youth in treatment.
Despite the economically robust 1990s and early 2000s, the homeless and
runaway youth population increased by 22 percent at the national level (DAlanno
1998; 2000; Scandlyn et al. 2003). This increase indicates a complex interaction
between general economic conditions and homelessness, suggesting that there must
be other variables that contribute to homelessness (Scandlyn et al. 2003). It is critical
to understand such variables in designing strategic policies to address this issue.
5


Talk of public-private collaboration has ensued for years; over 25 years ago,
Marshall Hahn, Jr. said that such partnerships hold the key to urban vitality...and I
believe that over time they can meet the challenges confronting our cities as we move
toward the 21st century (Hahn 1982: 246). At the same time that there appears to be
an increase in the number of homeless youth, a collaborative dialogue is evolving
regarding public, private and nonprofit partnerships. Marks (1993: 25) looked at
settlement housing in New York City and how the United Neighborhood Houses of
New York (UNH) and the City worked together to integrate services internally and
to collaborate with outside organizations to meet new service demands in a way that
both expands youth and family development services and is cost effective. Bazzoli et
al. (1997) focused nationally on public-private partnerships linking health and human
service providers with community coalitions in the Community Care Network in an
effort to improve service delivery. As these dialogues are forming, the social
constructions that the respective collaborators form of the target populations have
significant implications with respect to how policy is established as well as the
approach that these collaborators take in responding to, and later implementing, the
issue.
Employing limited contextual qualitative data coupled with survey data from the
public, private and nonprofit sectors in Denver, this thesis examines public, private
and nonprofit collaborations in Denver addressing adolescent homelessness and
6


determines best practices as well as the constraints at both the neighborhood and
municipal levels that prevent youth from permanently exiting the streets. DeLeon
(1988: 36) contends that this balanced approach is largely missing in policy sciences
research and suggests that from a conceptual vantage point, there is a need for
integration and balance. Homelessness as an issue area defines the contextual
research with particular focus on understanding public, private and nonprofit
collaborations for homeless youth, emphasizing the approaches of public participation
and social construction theory.
This thesis is important both conceptually and analytically with respect to its
policy implications. Given that Denver, like other cities, is experiencing a
multifaceted and complex problem involving homeless youth, this dissertation poses
the following research questions:
1. Given multiple efforts to study this population, what does youth
homelessness look like in Denver?
2. How do the social constructions articulated by the public, private and
nonprofit sectors define and shape the issue of homeless youth in
Denver?
7


3. Given the first two research questions, what are the public policy
implications to reducing youth homelessness in alignment with the
City of Denvers (2005) Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness
(Denvers Road Home)!
4. What is the role of homeless youth with respect to collaborations
involving the public, private and nonprofit sectors?
In essence, the dissertation employs the following model to respond to the first
question in terms of what youth homelessness looks like in Denver (see Figure 1.1,
below). Xj draws from the Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative and the annual
point-in-time count conducted to assess the number of homeless persons living and
sleeping on the streets of metropolitan Denver. This count is not intended to be an
exact count but serves to capture the characteristics of the homeless in Denver at
a given point in time (D Alanno 2006: 9). The Urban Peak data (X2) capture
information collected via public health surveys conducted during the past six years on
homeless youth both in Denver and in other cities, both in the State of Colorado and
nationally (Van Leeuwen 2002; Van Leeuwen 2004). The Scandlyn Data (X3)
involve a study that took place over the course of a year, acquiring 25 ethnographic
profiles between January and December 2002. Profiles were collected throughout the
year to account for the seasonal patterns of homelessness. The data collected in the
ethnographies include demographic information, family background information,
8


mental health history and substance abuse history. Although collected in advance of
this dissertation, for the purposes of this thesis, these data provide some insight into
the youth perspective on youth homelessness and subsequent social constructions that
are formed about them. Schneider & Ingram (2005: 8) make a theoretical case for
including this perspective in addition to the public, private and nonprofit sectors as
public policies and social constructions interact in a reciprocal manner so that they
mutually affect each other. \While this study was not designed nor intended to
inform this dissertation, there is some valuable data that can be drawn from this
research to inform and illustrate some of the findings in this study. Finally, (X4) are
new data that were collected as part of this thesis to inform the gap in the literature
regarding how the public, private and nonprofit sectors form social constructions of
homeless youth and the subsequent effect that this intersection has on collaboration, if
any.
9


X,: Metropolitan
Denver Homeless
Initiative
X4: Public, Private
& Nonprofit Sector
Social Constructions
X3:
Scandlyn Data
Policy Recommendations
to End Youth
Homelessness in Denver
Figure 1.1 An Overview of Homeless Youth in Denver, Colorado
This dissertation proposes to integrate existing data to better understand how
public, private and nonprofit collaboration can contribute to the necessary service
deliveries to ameliorate Denvers youth homelessness. Ultimately, this study is
important as it provides an overview of homeless youth in Denver and argues that
there is a need for a greater understanding of the characterizations of the public,
private and nonprofit sectors in the construction of public policy for homeless youth.
It also affects collaborative policy making, where such characterizations impacts the
10


ability of providers to develop collaborations that more effectively transition
homeless youth off of the streets.
1.2: Public, Private and Nonprofit Collaborations
Successful public policy in todays world demands the collaborative activity of
the three major policy actors: the public, private and nonprofit sectors. According to
Innes & Booher (2003: 33), We have no choice. We have to stay at the table. There
is no alternative. Spoken by a leading businessman in a case study of the
Sacramento Water Forum, efforts to understand the role of collaboration in resolving
complex social conflicts are increasing. There is a developing body of literature on
the collaborative efforts among the public, private and nonprofit sectors. For our
purposes, public, private and nonprofit collaboration is defined as the civil dialogue
involving public (e.g., government offices, police, city council), private (e.g.,
business owners, business improvement districts) and nonprofit sectors (service
providers and 501(c)3 agencies) to help create a more adaptive and intelligent policy
system (Innes & Booher 2003: 55).
Bazolli et al. (1997) look at how public-private partnerships have the capacity to
identify needs and improve human service delivery. Along the same lines, Marks
(1993) evaluates settlement housing in New York and cites the partnership between
the United Neighborhood Houses of New York, a nonprofit entity, and the city.
11


Marks (1993: 25) concludes that a constructive collaboration with local welfare
agencies can lead to city dollars going further for critically needed services.
While these articles explicitly set the stage for this dissertation, there are multiple
other arenas outside the field of human services that are experimenting with such
models, especially in health care. Rolnick et al. (2000) concluded that collaboration
between a private, nonprofit health plan and a state health department provides
unique opportunities to form relationships with otherwise competing entities.
Turkkan et al. (2000) analyzed a relationship between public and private sectors to
evaluate tobacco risk factors and planning to remove barriers to collaboration. An
article in the Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly (Anonymous 1995: 6) reported on a
meeting between public and private behavioral health care organizations to focus on
the growing move by state and local agencies to incorporate managed care into
behavioral health care systems.
Beyond the borders of the United States, Ashraf (2000) described a collaboration
forged between the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and
other private and public sectors to address the issue of global immunization. Dawes
& Prefontaine (2003: 40) address the cooperative model in Europe where new modes
of public-private collaboration, inspired by voluntary partnerships among separate
entities, are evolving into a coherent service delivery system. Dawes & Prefontaine
12


(2003) argue that such partnerships in the European community are stimulating new
opportunities and redesign of existing government services.
Although the research reveals a growing trend to experiment with public, private
and nonprofit collaborative models, there is also a body of evidence that cautions
restraint. Mandell (2001) argued that while public-private collaboration can, in fact,
render positive solutions to community problems, public administrators may not
understand the complexity of non-governmental organizations, community groups,
and businesses involved in these collaborations. Because the network structures are
not well understood, Mandell (2001: 279) indicated that public administrators at
times lack the information necessary to manage such collaborations to produce the
most desired and effective outcomes. Griffiths (2000: 393) reiterated these
reservations and proposed that public-private entities have a tendency to oversimplify
these relationships without fully understanding public space and how to
collaborate. On the more positive side, Griffiths (2000: 394) has been optimistic
that it is possible such collaborations will have a chance of becoming a robust,
democratic reality rather than a series of chancy, short-lived, and often merely
paper exercises in hope.
Again, outside the United States, the Canadian government is experimenting with
public-private models. In an examination of six cases of partnerships, Boase (2000)
raised some concern about how issues such as accountability, democracy, and
13


neutrality are being addressed with respect to these relationships. Boase (2000) also
urged caution and vigilance. A study of mental health services in Australia concludes
that what with multiple payers and already-complex systems, the concept of
collaboration is hard to conceptualize for public-private players (Pirkis et al. 2001:
639); they raise issues around evaluation, outcome measures and interpretation of
findings as just some of the many factors to consider in these complex partnerships.
Although there is no documented evidence of any formal public, private and
nonprofit collaborations designed to address the issue of homeless youth, Danzy
(1996: 651) moved the debate closer with an examination of the Philadelphia foster
care system and a partnership between public and private communities to advance a
change agenda for service reform. He emphasized the importance of strong
collaborative networks and urged public, private and nonprofit entities to always take
the collaborative context into consideration (e.g., such relationships will vary
contextually).
Like Innes & Booher (2003: 47), this dissertation investigates complex systems
involving homeless youth to ultimately define a complex adaptive system that has
the capacity to learn and evolve through feedback from the public, private and
nonprofit sectors as well as its constituents (homeless youth).
14


1.3: The Policy Problem
There are distinct policy problems inherent in addressing the barriers that the
public, private, and nonprofit sectors encounter in providing services to homeless
youth. The previous sections identify some of these barriers including the limited
amount of research on collaborative policy making and social constructions regarding
homeless youth. Furthermore, without a more complete overview of homeless youth
in Denver, homeless youth programs are conceptualized based on relatively isolated
pockets of data rather than drawing from an integrated perspective of homeless youth.
There is overwhelming evidence that this homeless youth population is not only
growing, but that its needs are complex and multifaceted (DAlanno 1998; 2000;
2002; 2005). A disproportionate number of these youth come from single-parent
homes (see Chapter II). Indeed, one of the most accurate predictors of whether a
young person will become homeless is parental drug and alcohol abuse (Whitbeck &
Hoyt 1998). Here, it is critical that the service delivery models for this population be
addressed to curb the rapid increase in this population, both from a humanitarian
perspective as well as the cost-benefit argument that it is more cost-effective to
respond to these issues now than in the future when they might be exacerbated.
Operating under a programmatic philosophy that exercises both a harm reduction
and strengths-based model, many homeless youth providers recognize the
complexities involved in moving a young person from life on the streets to a stable
15


independent living situation (Urban Peak Corporation 2002). Homeless and runaway
youth require a focused network of support, including employment and education,
health care, substance abuse and mental health treatment, and transitional housing.
The mission of Urban Peak is to assist youth in permanently exiting the streets,
offering a continuum of care including shelter, medical care, food, job counseling,
GED training and outreach (Urban Peak Corporation 2004).
While there are some state and municipal resources available to serve this
population, there still exists a clear lapse in the continuity of services between
providers and homeless youth with respect to housing, case management, medical,
education, employment, mental health and substance abuse services. This gap, often
based on presenting issues of homeless youth (e.g. substance abuse and mental
illness) limits access to appropriate shelter, housing, education and other case
management services that would assist them in living life off of the streets. In many
cases, there is a similar disconnect among public, private and nonprofit sectors in
their responses to homeless youth. Because of the diverse needs demonstrated by this
population coupled with the needs of the private and public sectors of the City and
County of Denver, service providers face tremendous challenges in providing
assistance in an integrated, cohesive and collaborative approach.
Costs of Homelessness
16


The financial costs of homelessness underscore the need for a more coordinated
public policy response to this issue. In Colorado, Urban Peak analysts estimate that it
costs the State of Colorado approximately $53,655 to maintain one youth in the
criminal justice system for one year; residential treatment costs approximately
$53,527 per youth (Urban Peak Corporation 2002). For Urban Peak (2004), in 2004,
it cost the agency $3,800 to permanently move a young person off of the streets, less
than one-tenth the cost of the more traditional models of service delivery. By
instituting case management intensive programs, there are substantial benefits to be
gained by society in terms of both costs as well as psychological and sociological
benefits. Again, like homeless counts, costs must be interpreted with caution. While
$3,800 accounts for the dollar value of services rendered to move the total number of
homeless youth off of the streets and into stable housing, it does not account for the
young people who move into housing and then return to the streets, only to require
additional homeless services. While this does provide an estimate for the cost of
service deliver, such cost analysis bears further research to accurately assess the true
cost in permanently moving a homeless youth off of the streets.
Although not specific to the homeless youth population, Denvers Ten Year Plan
to End Homelessness, also known as Denvers Road Home, underscores the
significant cost burden of the homeless, estimating that each year the City and County
of Denver spends over $70 million for services and health care specific to the
17


homeless; a hospital stay averages $29,921 per person who is homeless per visit (City
& County of Denver 2004). The Interagency Council on Homelessness estimates,
based on studies conducted in New York and Philadelphia that a chronically homeless
individual consumed over $40,000 annually in public services. While these costs are
not specific to homeless youth, they offer some insight into the fiscal burdens that this
issue creates for communities in terms of costs and underscore the importance of
preventing homeless youth from becoming chronically homeless adults in terms of
the expenses they will ultimately create in consuming public services.
1.4: Policy Implications
In response to the four research questions, there are multiple implications in terms
of both policy theory and policy practice. Despite some discussion of public, private
and nonprofit collaboration in the fields of health care and education, the literature is
virtually silent with respect to the field of human services, particularly for homeless
youth. Furthermore, in a climate of constrained economic resources and significant
budget cuts to human service programs, integrated information regarding the target
population to guide policy makers in developing more strategic homeless programs is
critical (Olinger & Hudson 2004).
Fest (1998) argued that the services offered to these street youth in the past have
not worked well, which, in turn, perpetuates the argument that the potential for
success is limited. Fest (1988:7) suggested that it is a lack of recognition for the
18


unique aspects of street life responsible for most of the mistakes that are made when
working with street youth, and the reason why so many attempts to serve this
population fail. A more comprehensive understanding of the existing population and
effective service delivery models and perceptions of those creating and implementing
public policy would potentially facilitate better public programming to provide
homeless youth with cost-effective, high-quality services. This information could
serve as a model for other cities and youth providers designing programs involving
public, private and nonprofit collaborations to assist young people in exiting the
streets. Furthermore, in a period of considerable economic limitations, even given a
recovering local and national economy, this dissertation must determine who to most
strategically and effectively use the resources available to serve this population
(Rebchook 2000; Rebchook 2003; Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
2003).
Finally, this dissertation further informs collaborative policy making with respect
to the dialogue that exists, or that should exist, between the public, private and
nonprofit sectors in responding to youth homelessness. Innes & Booher (2003: 48)
acknowledge that while the system is difficult to control, through more collaborative
dialogue, such systems can be more intelligent and adaptive.
19


1.5: Thesis Overview
Chapter II highlights the background of homeless youth. A review on homeless
youth identifies presenting causes of youth homelessness, prevalence and trends in
data. This section focuses on both national and local trends. Chapter III frames the
theories that guide this thesis, specifically how social construction theory,
collaborative theory, public participation theory and youth development theory
inform the research questions in this dissertation. This chapter both summarizes the
existing theories and frames them as the foundation of this dissertation. Chapter IV
moves into the methodology of this thesis and outlines both the design and the data
collection as it relates to this dissertation. This chapter details both qualitative and
quantitative data collection and explains how the theory as outlined in Chapter III
informs the methodological design of this study. Chapter V explains the results from
both the qualitative and quantitative surveys and sets the stage for Chapter VI.
Chapter VI discusses how the data inform the propositions and the subsequent policy
implications of the results. This chapter also builds on the methodological limitations
of the dissertation to discuss other limitations that emerged over the course of this
study that bear noting in interpreting the findings. Chapter VII ties the dissertation
together, addressing each of the four research questions and how well the research
informs the literature. This concluding chapter also discusses how the theoretical
20


frame of this dissertation supports these findings and offers some insight into future
research, promises and issues related to collaboration as it relates to homeless youth.
In this dissertation I argue that actors from the public, private and nonprofit
sectors differentially construct homeless youth and that it is possible for homeless
youth to shift their social constructions (e.g. from deviant to dependent). This
research demonstrates overall that sectors are more like to classify youth as dependent
and suggests willingness from actors across sectors to let homeless youth participate
in policy making and decision making. Furthermore, the gender of an actor matters
and public participation may play a role in facilitating a shift in social constructions.
More importantly, this dissertation demonstrates that there is a need to more clearly
define social constructions as outlined by Schneider & Ingram (1993; 1997; 2005) as
the sample involved is generalizable only to the level of actors across sectors and not
to professions or other more specific variables.
21


2. BACKGROUND AND LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Overview
Mayers (2001) writes: I spent four years on the street working with youth. I did
not then know all that I have come to realize now. Mayers (2001) is referring to the
journey of street youth and the multiple complex issues that lead them from their
homes onto the streets. The challenge of this chapter is not in detailing each of the
contributing factors that the research suggests either causes or propagates youth
homelessness but rather the age old chicken and egg dilemma. What comes first?
Does mental illness and substance abuse within the family precipitate youth
homelessness or are the high rates of mental illness explained by living life on the
streets?
The literature in this chapter will detail both the risks and causes of homelessness
ranging from mental illness and substance abuse to high risk sexual behaviors and
low socioeconomic status. Each of these factors discussed in this chapter are
important in understanding how actors form social constructions of homeless youth
and it is important to take each one into consideration into the challenges that young
people face living life on the streets. On the other hand, it is important not to digest
these characterizations independently of one another. Unfortunately, the lives of
homeless youth are infrequently impacted by just one variable such as mental illness.
If this were the case, the challenges of responding to this issue would be significantly
22


less complicated as by merely treating the mental health, a homeless youth could then
transition off of the streets.
The reality, that the literature is not always able to convey, is complexity of youth
homelessness such that a young person addicted to heroin, may also suffer from
severe depression, experience frequent suicidal ideation and engage in prostitution to
support his or her drug habit and to be able to acquire food and a place to sleep.
Here, such a scenario renders a more realistic portrait of homeless youth and seriously
limits the cause and effect explanation of youth homelessness (e.g. he was addicted to
drugs, therefore he became homelessness).
While it is not possible to untangle this complex portrait of youth homelessness,
this chapter does provide individual and population level characteristics of homeless
youth. The narrative moves from a national perspective of homeless youth to a more
local focus specific to metropolitan Denver. This chapter sets the stage for the theory
that grounds this dissertation, but basically is intended to provide some context for
homeless youth and the obstacles they face in exiting the streets.
2.2: Characterizing Homeless Youth
A literature review of street youth identifies common characteristics. A homeless
youth is defined by the Colorado State legislation in the Homeless and Runaway
Youth Act (1997). According to Colorado House Bill 02-1159 establishing the
Office of Homeless Youth Services, a homeless youth is defined as:
23


A youth who is at least fifteen years of age but younger than twenty-one years of
age and who is not imprisoned or otherwise detained pursuant to a federal or state
law and who:
(I) Lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; or
(II) Has a primary nighttime residence that is:
a. A supervised, publicly or privately operated shelter designed to
provide temporary living accommodations; or
b. A public or private place not designed for, nor ordinarily used as, a
regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
In general, the existing research on homeless youth examines race, socioeconomic
status, family background, abuse (sexual, physical and emotional), substance
dependence, mental health, and sexual behaviors in relationship to runaway and
homeless youth. While the ethnic composition of runaway and homeless youth is
diverse, the literature overwhelmingly indicates that the population under
consideration is predominantly Caucasian. In a study of homeless youth Whitbeck &
Hoyt (1998) report that a majority of their respondents (61 percent) are of European-
American descents. Both Shane (1996) and Thompson et al. (2001) support this
finding.
Gender representation is similar. While there is variation across studies, homeless
youth tend to be predominantly male. Wagners et al. (2001) sample of homeless
24


youth in Seattle is 62 percent male and 38 percent female. Beechs et al. (2002)
sample is 70 percent male and 30 percent female while Greenes et al. (1999)
research sample on survival sex (prostitution) among homeless youth is 61 percent
female and 39 percent male; however, it is important to note that this is a skewed
sample.
Like counting the homeless, interpretation of gender and the numbers of homeless
males and females warrants some commentary (Wright et al. 1998). While the
literature consistently points to a discrepancy between males and females, with the
number of homeless males exceeding the number of homeless males, this number
should also be interpreted with caution. Other variables such as prostitution and
alternative solutions to the streets may impact why a smaller percentage of females
are reported in the existing literature. While it is possible to speculate on this gender
discrepancy, this is also a topic that warrants further research to explain this effect.
As for socioeconomic status, Whitbeck & Hoyt (1998) claim that homeless youth
represent a variety of class backgrounds, although the overwhelming majority come
from lower socioeconomic households. Whitbeck & Hoyt (1998) indicate almost a
quarter of runaway and homeless youths caretakers reported annual incomes under
$15,000. The literature also emphasizes that homeless youth come from family
backgrounds offering minimal social support. Bucy et al. (1991) characterized this
lack of support, citing evidence of physical abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect, and
25


abandonment. Dadds et al. (1993) added that parental marital discord and
overprotection were factors common to homeless and runaway youth. In a sample of
runaway and homeless youth from New Jersey, Shane (1991) concluded that high
levels of family conflict and poor relationships between parent and child characterize
the families of these adolescents. While data specific to Denver homeless and
runaway youth are limited, Urban Peak (2001) reported that 40 percent come from
homes characterized by physical or sexual abuse, 70 percent admit to using/abusing
drugs and/or alcohol, and greater than 50 percent have severe chronic mental health
problems. Discenza (2004) identifies substance abuse as a key factor preventing
homeless youth in Denver from leaving the streets. Prevalence of both substance
abuse and mental illness are significantly higher than expected when compared to the
general adolescent population (Merscham et al. Forthcoming). Despite this existing
body of research, there remains a need for more research on socioeconomic status of
families of homeless youth.
Numerous researchers indicate high levels of both physical and sexual abuse are
found among homeless youth. Bucy et al. (1991) asserted that physical and sexual
abuse was partially responsible for the young people on the streets in this country. A
more recent study of 364 homeless adolescents found that 60 percent of girls and 23
percent of boys reported sexual abuse before leaving home (Cauce et al. 2000).
Sexual abuse is consistently high among homeless youth across samples with both
26


Rew (2002) and Rew et al. (2001) characterizing 60 percent of their samples as being
sexually abused in their lifetime.
Drug and alcohol abuse as a recurring issue facing runaway and homeless youth.
Multiple studies support the hypothesis that drug and alcohol use is considerably
higher among street youth than other adolescents (Greene et al. 1997). Based on the
National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, data indicate that repeat runaways are 7-12
times more likely to have a drug history than non-runaways and those who have run
away only once (Whitbeck & Hoyt 1998). In a study of substance abuse disorders,
Kipke et al. (1997) classified over 70 percent of the homeless youth in their sample as
having alcohol and/or drug abuse disorders, based on DSMIII criteria.*
Poor mental health is also a recurring theme, especially concerning suicidal
ideation and attempts. The literature shows patterns of high rates of both suicidal
ideation and suicide attempts, with 25 percent of females and 14 percent of males
attempting at least once in the Leslie et al. (2002) sample. Leslie et al. (2002)
identify emotional distress and the influence of suicidal friends as significant factors
in predicting suicide attempts for both homeless males and females.
With respect to sexual behaviors among street youth, Whitbeck & Hoyt (1998)
found that over 75 percent of their sample of homeless youth was sexually active.
* Kipke et al. (1997) references the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) III
despite the fact that the DSM IV (1994) existed at the time of this study.
27


More specific to Denver, Van Leeuwen et al. (2002) found that rates of sexually
transmitted infections among homeless and runaway youth were over double the rate
of the general adolescent population, with 11.6 percent of youth testing positive for
Chlamydia trachomatis, a sexually transmitted infection. Illustrating the complex
interplay among the variables linked to adolescent homelessness, Santelli et al.
(1998:271) reported a strong association between alcohol use and multiple sexual
partners, such that the number of sexual partners they have is an important risk
factor for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
While there is notable consensus in the literature that these youth exhibit high
levels of sexual activity and experience, there is some dispute regarding the issue of
survival sex, a euphemism for prostitution, or the exchange of sexual favors for
food, drugs, clothing and shelter. The rates of survival sex do differ among studies
(Whitbeck & Hoyt 1998; Shane 1996; Rew 1996). Again, a study in Denver
estimated that 13 percent of the homeless and runaway youth population has
prostituted themselves (Van Leeuwen et al. 2002). Although there are no data
comparing this number to the general adolescent population, approximately one in ten
youth participating in prostitution could be surmised as extremely high, given this age
cohort. Recent literature continues to struggle with rates of prostitution, although
there seems to be some consistency across samples. One of the most comprehensive
studies to date found that 27.5 percent of the street sample and 9.5 percent of the
28


shelter sample reported engaging in survival sex. Survival sex was significantly and
positively tied to age, length of time away from home, and previous hospitalization
in a psychiatric hospital (Greene et al. 1999:1408).
In addition to the preceding variables discussed, the literature seems to be
inconsistent regarding other issues relevant to homeless and runaway youth. Beech et
al. (2002) report on rates of hepatitis infection with 22 percent of this sample testing
positive for hepatitis B or C. Roy et al. (2001) also identifies hepatitis C infection as
a growing concern with 12.6 percent prevalence in the sample. Moon et al. (2000)
looks at the issue of sexual identity and reports that gay/lesbian/bisexual homeless
youth report using drugs and alcohol at an earlier age and higher levels of use as
compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Moon et al. (2000) concludes that this
sample is at exceptionally high risks for HIV infection. Van Leeuwen et al. (2006)
found significant differences between LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) and non-LGB
youth within the homeless youth sample. Discenza (2004) suggested that both gender
and sexual identity affect how homeless youth experience homelessness; she argued
that there are key factors including abuse history, institutional failures, substance
abuse and police records that cause homeless youth to become homeless adults.
Public health risk factors are elevated for LGB homeless youth with significantly
higher levels of HIV and hepatitis C testing, child welfare and foster care
29


involvement, suicide attempts, survival sex, family substance abuse, injection drug
use and lifetime and past 30-day substance use (Van Leeuwen et al. 2006).
Counting Homeless Youth
Enumerating the homeless youth population is difficult and, not surprisingly,
controversial. As Wright et al. (1998: 39), these numbers must be interpreted
carefully to ensure that the information is not distorted into something it is not.
With this in mind, trends demonstrate increases in youth homelessness. Homeless
youth populations in cities such as Denver are growing (DAlanno, 1998; DAlanno,
2002; and DAlanno 2005). In 2002, the Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative
estimated that there were approximately 400 young people between the ages of 15
and 21 sleeping on the streets of Denver on any given night. In 2004, this number
surged to 619, marking a 55 percent increase in the homeless youth population (cf.
DAlanno 2002 and DAlanno 2005). The most recent point in time survey from the
Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative estimates this number, as of 2006, to be
646. While the methodology of these counts has some limitations (such as
interviewer reliability and sampling strategies), these data establish that the
population count consistently trends upward over the past decade. Furthermore, they
illustrate the only effort in which to enumerate homeless youth in Denver.
Efforts to enumerate homeless youth in Denver began with a survey conducted by
Franklin James (1989) in a report submitted to then-Govemor Roy Romer based on a
30


survey conducted on homelessness in the metropolitan Denver area. James (1989;
1995) set the stage for the Metropolitan Denver Homeless Initiative annual point-in-
time surveys and the first youth count in 2000, by tracking patterns of homelessness
among adults, youth and children. Through his research, James (1989; 1995)
provided policy makers and providers with a benchmark as well as insight into the
point-in-time prevalence of the homeless population in Denver.
This body of literature demonstrates that while there is a growing body of
research involving this population, researchers are taking many different approaches
to this complex population. While it is clear that there are discrepancies in these
estimates, there are some emerging patterns as they relate to demographics, abuse in
the home, substance abuse, mental illness, sexual conduct. This discussion
underscores the observation that homeless youth are a relatively small but remarkably
complex and greatly troubled population. Given the population summarized, this
dissertation focuses on a specific set of variables that define successful collaboration
between private, public, nonprofit sectors. This next section offers an overview of
collaboration as it relates to the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
2.3: Collaboration
We can now begin to define the respective roles that public, private and nonprofit
sectors play with respect to homeless youth. In collecting data, it is possible that
other principal stakeholders will emerge and be included. We also include the
31


consumers (homeless youth) as key stakeholders. Le Roux et al. (1998) point out that
street children, regardless of the city where they live, must rely on the general public
and respective stakeholders for their survival. Citing the misinformed perceptions
that stakeholders in the community hold toward street youth, Le Roux et al.
(1998:910) observes:
.. .the police are of the opinion that the issue of street children
lies within the realm of the social work profession. Social
workers insist that the community should deal with the
phenomenon. And the general public strongly feels that the
police must deal with the problem.
Public policy must factor in the perceptions of the relevant stakeholders from the
public, private and nonprofit sectors to develop effective collaborative models to
assist homeless youth in exiting the streets. We turn now to an analysis of the three
principle collaboration actors: the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, respectively.
2.3.1: Public Sector
Since 2003, Denver Human Services has embarked on an aggressive effort to
restructure the agency and more strategically and cost-effectively respond to issues
such as homelessness and child welfare. Prior to the new administration, this
department was confronted with a severe economic shortfall with respect to service
delivery given the tremendous shortage of shelter beds. These shelter beds, in most
32


cases, are coupled with access to case management services including, but not limited
to, mental health and substance abuse treatment. With such a high demand for bed-
space, lack of family intervention services, lack of voluntary services for families and
adolescents who are beyond parental control, ultimately families and youth had
access to very few resources in Denver. Subsequently, social and human service
agencies were forced to either place the young person in a juvenile detention facility
or not to place the child at all.
As a result of the change in administration in 2003, Denver adopted a ten year
plan to end homelessness (Denvers Road Home) and the Department of Human
Services quickly began reorganizing its approach to service delivery and the many
populations it serves, including but not limited to, homeless youth. The new vision of
the Denver Department of Human Services is to partner with our community to
protect those in harms way and help all people in need (City & County of Denver
2006).
The National Research Center (2003) conducted a citizens survey among 3,000
households in Denver in which the respondents identified their top three concerns as
traffic congestion, homelessness and too much growth. Furthermore, only 47 percent
of the respondents felt somewhat safe or very safe from violent crime in Denver
(National Research Center 2003:3). In 2006, this same survey ranked homelessness
33


as the number one concern of Denver citizens, ahead of traffic congestion, population
growth and drugs (Migoya 2007).
As a partial response to the 2003 findings, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper,
during his first year of office, initiated the Denver Homeless Commission to
investigate the nature of the problem and identify both short-term and long-term
solutions to the issue of homelessness in Denver. To this end, Mayor Hickenlooper
appointed a 41-person committee, including persons from public, private and
nonprofit sectors as well as consumers of homeless services, to identify both
obstacles to moving off of the streets as well as existing resources to respond to this
growing public policy issue in Denver (National Alliance to End Homelessness
2003).
Historically, the Denver Police Department, especially in Districts 3, 4 and 6, has
struggled with homeless and runaway youth. These three districts cover the greater
part of central Denver (see Appendix VII). Calls and complaints from business
owners and patrons regarding homeless youth tax a police force required to address
growing issues in a growing city, given its limited resources. Lack of alternative
treatment and housing options for these youth restrict the options for the police.
Their choices are often limited to ticketing the youths, incarcerating them, or finding
an alternative location for them to stay. More effective and efficient options for this
34


population would alleviate the burden on the Denver police officers, freeing them up
to perform other duties.
The Federal Bureau of Investigative Crime Reports ranks Denver as below the
national average for urban crimes with 32,132 crimes occurring in the metropolitan
area during 2002. The only type of crime in which Denver ranked above the national
average was for aggravated assaults (Federal Bureau of Investigative Crime Reports
2002). According to Denver police statistics (2002) total crimes are up 4.6 percent
from 2001 with burglary up 9 percent and sexual assault up 8.9 percent. Given there
is not a breakdown of how many of these crimes are committed by the homeless
population, it is not possible to establish any meaningful link regarding the potential
social and psychological costs of failing to respond to growing issues such as
homelessness. Subsequently, by ignoring the homeless condition it is not possible
given existing data to speculate on whether this would precipitate increased crime on
the street crime and a cost for additional law enforcement.
2.3.2: Private Sector
Private business owners and homeless youth providers are largely in agreement
regarding homeless and runaway youth living somewhere else besides the streets
(Migoya 2007). Fear of crime and safety concerns within the business community,
are often coupled with the increasing presence of homeless and runaway youth in
certain regions (Districts Three, Four and Six; see Appendix G) of Denver. As the
35


numbers of homeless and runaway youth increases, these perceptions (or social
constructions) of the private sector have the potential to detract customers and their
families from patronizing downtown businesses. Stereotypes of street youth
propagated through media descriptions of this population as mall rats seemingly
decreases the attractiveness of businesses to potential customers (Ensslin 1999).
According to Ensslin (1999, November 7), Denver police use the term mall rats
when talking about the loose band of teenagers who hang around the 16th Street
Mall. Schneider & Ingram (2005) point to the challenges of groups such as this
moving out from under such stereotypes as these constructions are often uncontested
and accepted.
Consequently, business owners are major stakeholders in assisting homeless
youth with better services and resources. Most recently, the Downtown Denver
Partnership working with Urban Peak created a resource center in the downtown area
for this population (Berry-Helmlinger 2002). The implication from business owners
is that they too share some responsibility for solving this problem. In a study
conducted by the Downtown Denver Partnership (Denver Area Plan Summaries
2006), despite an overall low crime rate, perceptions of safety among downtown
residents declined substantially. It is important to note that such perceptions of
safety based on that of the individual respondents and not a reflection of safety for all
stakeholders (e.g. homeless youth). As various stakeholders have varying vested
36


interests, perceptions must be weighted based on the context under which they are
based. Efforts to work collaboratively with homeless youth providers such as Urban
Peak are partly intended to respond to these existing perceptions (Denver Area Plan
Summaries 2006).
Hospitality Project
Another initiative that was recently launched involves the Denver Metro
Convention and Visitors Bureau, representing the hospitality industry in downtown
Denver and Urban Peak. A partnership has formed between the Denver business
community and Urban Peak, recognizing that by working together it is possible to
more effectively get homeless youth off the streets. The hospitality industry, led by
the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau (DMCVB), is committed to
working with homeless youth providers in Denver to provide training and support and
assist them in transitioning off of the streets and into stable housing. Currently, while
the hospitality industry provides the job training and mentoring, Urban Peak, through
support from the Mayors Office of Workforce Development, provides the supportive
services such as shelter, employment counseling, job readiness training, case
management, treatment services and housing. The internship program with the
hospitality project began in March 2005 with ten homeless youth; a total of four
young people have already completed the program and received employment as a
result of this project. The hotels involved in this unique partnership include the
37


Hyatt, Marriott, Embassy Suites, Courtyard by Marriott and the Oxford Hotel. The
other partners involved are Urban Peak, the DMCVB and the City & County of
Denver. Another internship program with homeless youth was launched in May
2006.
From a downtown citizens perspective of downtown Denver, the improvement of
services toward the youth homeless population represents a clear priority for safety
and quality of life reasons. Referring to one of the alternatives of housing youth via
juvenile detention and residential treatment facilities, the issue is at least partially one
of cost-effectiveness (Urban Peak 2004). If this population continues to increase,
based on current trends, subsequent increases in drug and alcohol use as well as crime
will most likely also occur (see Section 1.3).
2.3.3: Nonprofit Sector
With respect to providers, this dissertation refers to nonprofit organizations (e.g.,
non-governmental organizations) providing direct goods and services to the homeless
population of Denver. Nonprofits are defined under the federal tax code of 501 and
are formed for the purpose of serving a public or mutual benefit other than the
pursuit of accumulation of profits for owners or investors (Lukert 2006:
www.leamingtogive.org). Multiple providers throughout the state of Colorado have a
vested interest in the issue of adolescent homelessness. With the closing of four
residential treatment centers serving youth included in the homeless and runaway
38


youth population in 2000 and 2001 (Attention Homes, Human Services, Inc.,
Bannock, and Triad), providers as well as their nominal clients are facing a severe
resource crisis in Colorado. Lack of shelter beds limits the number of youth
providers. With estimates suggesting that the population is rapidly rising, providers
are actively seeking solutions for more effective and efficient service delivery for
homeless youth (DAlanno 1998; DAlanno 2002). For instance, in 2002, the Urban
Peak facilities, with 40 beds and the capacity of 15 additional mats for overflow
conditions, was sheltering youth at capacity almost every night of the year (Urban
Peak Corporation 2002). Other nonprofit organizations serving this population in
some capacity include the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the Mental Health
Corps of Denver, the Samaritan House, the St. Francis Center, the Denver Rescue
Mission, Soxs Place, Dry Bones and Stand-up for Kids.
2.3.4: Homeless Youth as Consumers
Perhaps the population that stands to gain the most from better service delivery
represents the consumers of services, that is, the homeless youth themselves. While
each of the preceding stakeholders clearly has an interest in providing more effective
service delivery to homeless youth, this population suffers the most when these
services are not coordinated efficiently and are inadequate. Lack of bed space is
clearly a challenge for providers, social services and police departments. However,
lack of bed space for this population means more youth having to either face juvenile
39


detention or to sleep under a bridge, abandoned building or other public facility.
Limited bed space and treatment options are, however, only an index and do not
identify a solution.
In conclusion, this chapter on youth homelessness underscores the interaction
between sectors. According to Hajer (2003: 109), good public policy demands the
merging of these sectors as we are no longer dealing with issues of the government
alone anymore: In the new modernity, these interactive policymaking practices will
play an important role as acting upon interdependence and organizing collaboration
will be essential for effective policy making. The public sector cannot solve issues
such as youth homelessness alone. Instead, the focus on issues of policy involves the
public, private and nonprofit sectors. Furthermore, the role of the citizen, or in this
case, the homeless youth themselves, should not be discounted in developing good
public policy. As such, effective public policy creates a space in which people of
various origins deliberate on their future as well as on their mutual interrelationships
and their relationship to the government (Hajer 2003: 88). However, in order to
engage the citizens, Hajer (2003) acknowledges that they must often be ignited to
engage in the collaborative process. The next chapter will investigate this
collaborative process and from the stand point of collaboration, public participation
and youth development theory.
40


3. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
3.1: Overview
Data collection is grounded in a theoretical framework that informs this
dissertation. Four theories frame the research design. Social construction theory and
public (or constituent) participation theory predominantly guide the methodological
choices and the research design. Schneider & Ingrams (1990) categories of deviant,
dependent, contenders, and advantaged provide the framework for this dissertation to
compare social constructions of actors across sectors while public participation theory
helps identify the role, if any, of public participation among young people in
impacting these social constructions. This dissertation is further directed, to a lesser,
degree by collaboration theory and youth development theory. Collaboration theory
emphasizes how the building of partnerships transforms dialogue and decision
making structures while youth development theory informs the transfer of
information between young people and other parties and illuminates the capacity of
youth development to strengthen protective factors and respond to risks among youth
(Roth et al. 1999). Both collaboration theory and youth development theory serve to
support the leading theories of this dissertation by providing a deeper understanding
of dialogue and relationships between actors in the public, private and nonprofit
sectors and homeless youth. This chapter discusses each of these theories as they
relate to this dissertation.
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3.2: Social Construction Theory
Since the early 1990s, Helen Ingram and Anne Schneider have been recognized
for their work in advancing a policy design theory of social constructions (deLeon
2005). In their early work, Schneider & Ingram (1990: 526; 1993) paved the way for
social construction theory with their examination of behavioral theory and its impact
on policy, concluding that behavioral dimensions of policy are an important but
understudied aspect of politics. Their work evolved into a theory of social
constructions in which, through governance, groups are identified and constructed as
deserving and undeserving (Ingram & Schneider 2005: 2). Schneider & Ingram
(1993) defined these groups as advantaged, contenders, dependents and deviants. The
strength of this theory, as outlined by deLeon (2005: 636), is that it both informs
contemporary policy theory and makes good political and administrative sense.
Ingram & Schneider (2006) recognize the importance of understanding social
constructions to good policy making. One could extend their argument to suggest
that failure to take social construction theory into account when shaping public policy
around an issue such as youth homelessness would be inherently worrisome and
typically more likely to fail. Unchallenged social constructions of target groups, such
as homeless youth, make this population vulnerable, thereby creating an underclass
of marginalized and disadvantaged people who are widely viewed as undeserving and
incapable (Ingram & Schneider 2006: 2). Schneider & Ingram (1997:102) argued
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that a majority of the public policy in the United States is produced in policy-making
systems dominated by divisive social constructions that stigmatize some potential
target populations and extol the virtues of others. This dissertation focuses on the
social constructions that stigmatize homeless youth with little serious regard for
understanding the context of this social group. The limited scope of research devoted
to this particular population could account for this stigmatization. Nicholson-Crotty
& Meier (2005) argue that negative social constructions make a group such as
homeless youth a target for sanctions by decision makers. Social construction theory
thus offers insight into the challenges that this population faces and frames this
dissertation in a way to render some effective public policy recommendations for the
future.
There is currently no research explicitly dealing with the social constructions of
homeless youth from the mutual perspective of the public, private and nonprofit
sectors. Le Roux et al. (1998: 902) touched on the need to understand social
constructions of street youth as participants in the system must receive information
that takes them beyond their immediate bureaucratic concerns. Scharf (1998:14)
agreed that failure to understand social constructions of street youth misinforms
public policy and argues for continued and sustained information about street kids to
be shared with all the actors within the bureaucracy. Schneider & Ingram (1993:
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334) argued that social construction theory is a critical albeit overlooked political
phenomenon that should be integrated into public policy research.
Social construction theory viewed through the lenses of degenerative policy-
making contexts, asserts that there exists an unequal distribution of power separating
social construction groups into the deserving and undeserving to include four distinct
policy typologies: advantaged, contenders, dependents, and deviants (Schneider &
Ingram 1997). Accordingly, the advantaged are powerful with a positive
construction while the contenders are also powerful but more likely to be ascribed
characteristics that are undeserving or greedy resulting in a negative construction
(Schneider & Ingram 1997:102). The dependents are constructed as good people but
relatively needy or helpless who have little or no political power while the deviants
are virtually devoid of power with negative constructions as undeserving, violent and
mean (Schneider & Ingram 1997: 102). According to deLeon (2006), these social
constructions exist in a state of equilibrium until challenged or moved; that is, once a
characterization is assigned, it tends to perpetuate itself unless this characterization is
challenged (Ingram & Schneider 2006).
Based on social construction theory, homeless youth could potentially represent
either the dependent or deviant category (or both), characterized as having very little
political power. According to Ingram & Schneider (2005: 20) dependents learn that
they are unimportant, needing discipline and often turn to their social networks
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(family, faith community, nonprofits, local government) for support. Deviants, on the
other hand, view their problems as their own fault and believe they deserve nothing
but disrespect, hatred, incarceration, and isolation from society (Ingram & Schneider
2005: 20). It is important to underscore this interactive process where the sectors and
the homeless youth create and mutually reinforce these constructions. Ruddick
(1996: 18) illustrates this interaction by tracing the evolution of juvenile delinquency
where shifts in constructions of adolescents by policy makers defined certain
behaviors as delinquent and shifted how adolescents internalized these
constructions from the dominant group. While homeless youth could fit in either cell
of this matrix, given their lack of social networks coupled with characterizations such
as mall rats, this group seems to more readily fit and internalize the description of
deviant (Ensslin 1999).
Like deviants, homeless youth are in many ways disempowered and view
government as antagonistic (Ingram & Schneider 2006). Soss (2005:325) points out
that public opinion research demonstrates a sense of ambivalence toward issues such
as welfare and poverty and asserts that Americans tend to classify welfare
dependence as a kind of deviance in its own right. As Schneider & Ingram
(1997:105) assert, through degenerative policy-making, almost any construction of
events, people, or issues is possible and can vie for legitimacy without significant
constraints from ethics or from factual, empirical or scientific evidence. Through an
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insufficient body of research and problematic or inadequate conceptualization of
homeless youth, a social construction emerges that significantly limits the power of
the homeless population and results in under-informed public policy decisions from
this perspective. A similar social construct of landlords, lenders, borrowers and
tenants concludes that there is a need for greater understanding of the role of
stereotyped characterizations of tenure-specific groups and the construction of
housing policy (Hunter & Nixon 1999: 165).
This argument constitutes an effort to move public policy-making systems to a
more contextual constructionism that recognizes that there are constraints and limits
on the social constructions (Schneider & Ingram 1997:107). Essentially, using the
focus of social construction theory, we propose that homeless youth have been
labeled and operate under the stigma of socially prescribed constructions by observers
in the public, private and nonprofit sectors that fundamentally affect and probably
distort the realities of the situation. Based on the literature review, homeless youth
can be socially constructed as mentally ill, substance-abusing youth who are homeless
by choice and an unnecessary, unacceptable burden to society. However, according
to the study of intravenous drug users by Plumridge & Chetwynd (1999:341), we
need to know more about the construction of identity in a greater range of situations,
to under stand... how identity is tied to social practice. Essentially, social
construction theory argues that we need to know more about how social constructions
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are formed and maintained, in most cases but especially regarding homeless youth, to
design and implement more effective public policy.
Wiesenfeld & Panza (1999) offer a compelling argument for adopting social
construction theory. Focusing on the construction of the homeless population, they
underscore the importance of understanding the issues from the vantage point of the
population in which public policy is directed. Accordingly, Wiesenfeld & Panza
(1999:63) state: The understanding of the problem from the perspective of people
who experience it enables us to detect the problems, needs and expectations of the
homeless, instead of assuming or inferring them from the standpoint of an observer of
the homelessness. The idea then, is to move public policy awareness from
assumptions and inferences about this target population based solely on the limited
research rendered in the existing body of literature to a more thorough and complete
understanding of how homeless youth are socially constructed by the public, private
and nonprofit sectors.
Not only is there a gap in the research with respect to the social constructions
that public, private and nonprofit sectors form toward this population, but the gap
exists also in (1) the social constructions that each of the three sectors hold toward
each other, and (2) the social constructions that homeless youth themselves form
toward each of the respective sectors. To understand the interactions of these social
constructions, we build on existing research about homeless youth in Denver to foster
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a more effective and strategic public policy for service delivery to homeless youth
involving public, private and nonprofit sectors. This is important, as Schneider &
Ingram (1993: 337) propose that deviant groups are often punished with little control
over existing public policy agendas and observed that negatively constructed
powerless groups will usually be proximate targets of punishment policy (Schneider
& Ingram 1993: 337).
While social construction theory is not a new concept, only recently has public
policy begun to frame some of its questions through these lenses (Schneider &
Ingram 1997). Prior to the work of Schneider & Ingram, social construction theory
was addressed in the form of policy content (Ranney 1968; Lowi 1964; Kingdon
1984). Kingdon (1984:131) asserts that the content of the ideas themselves, far from
being mere smokescreens or rationalizations, are integral parts of decision making in
and around government. Multidisciplinary work predating Schneider & Ingram
(1990) made the argument that content is important and set the stage for social
construction theory as we know it today (Ranney 1968; Lowi 1964; Kingdon 1984).
Cheung (1997:331) showed how social construction had a tremendous impact
on the present ideological shift in family therapy. Like Wiesenfeld & Panza (1999),
Cheung (1997) argued that the value of this theory lay in its ability to draw from the
targeted population. Emphasizing the experience of a full human person and co-
creation of meaning through the use of language and narratives, Cheung (1997:342)
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pointed to the value of social construction in better understanding the context of the
situation. Similarly, Baines (1997:23) adopted social construction in looking at issues
surrounding sexual abuse, arguing that there is a need to understand victims of sexual
abuse and how the social systems respond to them in regards to our own perceptions
of what constitutes appropriate female behavior. Arguably, victims of sexual abuse
fall somewhere under the categorization of dependents and deviants, according to
Schneider & Ingram (1997), again emphasizing the importance of understanding the
context of the population to implement effective public policy.
Schneider & Ingram (1997:107) contended that social constructions become
central to the strategies of public officials. They subsequently claim that while
some social constructions rarely shift, few reputations are permanent and entitlements
can and do shift from one cell to another (Schneider & Ingram 2005). How the
public, private and nonprofit sectors socially construct each other, as well as the
homeless youth population (and vice versa), has a significant effect on the approach
to forming effective collaborative models of service delivery. However, if social
constructions are in fact contestable, then the opportunity to effect change via
public policy does exist (Ingram & Schneider 2005: 8).
3.2.1: Limitations of Social Construction Theory
This thesis attempts to respond to that nagging question of what moved a person
or a group from dependent cell to the contender cell (deLeon 2005: 636). According
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to deLeon (2005: 636-637), this aspect of social construction theory is not explicitly
addressed and demands further research regarding this crucial link of what
happens to shift the label of a person from one cell to another and the implications of
the transition for the democratic process.
In addition to framing the social constructions of the public, private and nonprofit
sectors with respect to homeless youth, one must realize that social construction
theory clearly affects this policy problem, but it also has some possible shortcomings
with respect to movement between categories. While Schneider & Ingram (1997;
2006) propose a policy typology, the literature does not adequately describe the
transition from one type to another. How does an individual or group transition or
mobilize from one cell to another, or is this transition even possible? Specifically,
given the right public policy initiatives or collaborative models, would it be possible
for homeless youth to move from a deviant category to a dependent category
(DiAlto 2005; Nicholson-Crotty & Meier 2005; Bensonsmith 2005)?
A body of literature seeks to employ social construction theory to articulate public
policy issues involving multiculturalism, families, gender and other complex social
issues. Oliveri & Reiss (1981) compared nuclear families to intra- and extra families
to demonstrate how social construction theory determines family relationships. Link
& Oldendick (1996) examined how social constructions of individual actors drive
issues and attitudes such as equal opportunity and multiculturalism. DiAlto (2005:81)
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explores the shift from deviant to model minority among Japanese Americans,
focusing on the powerful consequences of race and ethnicity as it relates to social
construction theory. Bensonsmith (2005) identifies lessons involving race and gender
that emerge from her study of the welfare state while Schram (2005: 284) identifies
face race and gender biases as barriers in the work force and on the job for
welfare recipients. Even Schneider & Ingram (2003: 13) in a more recent work
revisit the issue of changing social constructions such that a changed social
construction of deservedness can precipitate a change in policy, and alternatively,
public policy change can cause changes in constructions.
While this discussion takes us a step further to understanding how external events
or public policies can shift social constructions, we propose to examine this change
internally. For example, can implementation of concepts such as public (or
constituent) participation in building collaborative models involving deviants and
more advantaged groups mobilize a group from deviant to dependent? Schneider
& Ingram (2005:29) propose that unless a negative viewed group can either resist
the construction or reframe it to something more positive...mobilization is not likely
to occur.
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3.3: Constituent (Public) Participation
As political systems become larger and more complex, Dahl (1995: 49) warned
that they also become more remote from citizens, less accessible, and less
participatory. Forester (1999: 19) advises against asking What is the problem but
rather What is the story? In developing public, private and nonprofit collaborations
to address youth homelessness, the role of public (or constituent) participation in
designing effective collaborative partnerships has largely been left unexamined.
Building from social construction theory, Ingram & Schneider (2005: 8) argue that
the powerless have power when they are able to come together and resist dominant
constructions. This raises the question of whether social constructions can in fact be
altered using the vehicle of public participation. As such, public participation and
collaboration underlies why these theories, together with social construction theory,
create the joint intellectual foundation for this dissertation (see Section 3.4). On the
other hand, Ingram & Schneider (2005: 14) also make the point that some negative
social constructions are so uncontested and accepted that any shifts in perception,
regardless of public participation never occur even when policy would seem to offer
an opportunity.
Van Eeten et al. (2002: 107) note in their study of water management that
complex systems involve many different actors and argue that participative modeling
is a key part of successfully addressing management issues. DeLeon (1988: 200;
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1997) underscores the importance of citizen participation in policy analysis, arguing
that the policy sciences have been insensitive to the values and preferences of the
citizenry. Citizen participation adds a dimension to policy analysis that is both
critical to better understanding complex social systems and key to implementing
better policy. Van Eeten (2002) found that views of stakeholders are often
interrelated and reports on the inherent challenges of bringing actors together to move
forward on a shared strategy. This body of research on public participation
emphasizes the importance of integrating this theory into this dissertation.
Homeless youth constituents are important to help tell the story rather than to use
them as a reference to the problem. Van Eetens (2002) research argued that their
views are interrelated with the views of the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
Walters et al. (2000) raised the question of whether policy analysis yields to expert
analysis while denying the importance of public participation. In designing a model
of public involvement, Walters et al. (2000: 349) argued that decision makers should
be able to design and implement public participation strategies that both inform the
public about substantive policy questions and improve the quality of the final
decision.
This thesis poses the question: Is it possible to incorporate public (constituent)
participation into this approach into substantive policy questions about homeless
youth in a way that results in more effective service delivery models to assist youth in
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leaving the streets? Dryzek (1990: 148) argues that not only is this possible, but in
fact that policy makers should be careful not to shrink from ambitious schemes for
the resolution of social problems. Hajer & Wagnaar (2003) agree but warn that it is
not just an issue of whether public participation has a place in the policy arena but
also how public participation is inserted into public policy. DeLeon (1988: 211)
takes this a step further and advises that public policy theory has a place in
government policy but should be employed judiciously only when feasible or (under
certain circumstances) potentially feasible. This dissertation investigates, in the case
of homeless youth, whether or not such a policy application of public participation is
feasible given the existing stakeholders.
Fischer & Forester (1987) spoke to the inherent dangers of the politicization of
policy expertise. This thesis draws from the deliberative public policy literature to
underscore the importance of involving the public in the policy-making process, in
this case the public, private and nonprofit sectors as well as homeless youth (see
Figure 1.1). Due to the growing value of expertise and political think tanks, Fischer
& Forester (1993) argued that citizen participation (for our purposes, homeless youth
involvement) is often ignored or at least marginalized. On the other hand, they
described this voice as the cornerstone of democratic governance and petitioned the
need to bring citizens back into the policy making process (Fischer & Forester
1993: 35-36).
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Barber (1984) apparently agrees but argues that public participation, in and of
itself, is not what drives the process. Rather, he holds that constituent participation
must be linked to central power and given the discipline of genuine responsibility if
it is to lend itself to wise political judgments (Barber 1984: 264). In this case,
Barber (1984) might argue that homeless youth must be aligned with the other three
groups in order to drive the collaboration. Forester (1999) adds that this dialogue
regarding citizen involvement poses a significant challenge to democratic theory and
practice. As deLeon (1988; 1997; 2002) points out, this dialogue is something that
has been largely absent in the policy sciences. By incorporating public participation
theory into this dissertation, an opportunity exists to fill in a gap and better inform
homeless youth policymakers around policy design and implementation as they relate
to citizen involvement.
The democratic participation literature suggests that increasing citizen
participation knits together the breach between citizens and the public
administration and, by introducing more democratic models of public management,
provides compelling evidence that we can more effectively respond to complex
policy problems (L. deLeon & P. deLeon 2002). The democratic ethos asserts that it
is only as citizens act with reference to the public interest the broader interest of the
community that they can move from a lonely, isolated existence to one of virtue and
fulfillment (Denhardt & Denhardt 2001: 391). Advocating along the lines that
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public servants are responsive to the citizenry, Denhardt & Denhardt (2001) establish
a framework for public-private models that could potentially contribute to addressing
the issue of adolescent homelessness. Establishing the role of actors in the public
sector responding to the citizenry, there is a compelling argument that democratic
theory must underlie these models for them to be effective (deLeon 1988; Fischer &
Forester 1993; van Eeten et al. 2002). In this context, the constituents must include
homeless youth.
The democratic ethos values citizenship above entrepreneurship such that
through bureaucratic professionalism, the public interest is better advanced by public
servants and citizens committed to making meaningful contributions to society
(Denhardt & Denhardt 2001: 12). Simon (1995) acknowledged the cynical sentiment
that society harbors toward its existing public institutions and speaks to the
importance of developing a more thorough knowledge of the potential of government
to relate to its citizenry to address complex policy problems. In short, the public
participation literature proposes that not to establish a collaborative partnership
between public servants and citizens potentially compromises the effectiveness of any
collaborative model. For the immediate purposes, to exclude homeless youth from
the collaborative model of service delivery ultimately undermine the approach. The
argument extends the premise that the true sense of bureaucratic professionalism is
operating from the perspective that government is owned by the citizens and that
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public administrators are not the business owners of their agencies and programs
(Denhardt & Denhardt 2001: 13). In addressing the issue of homeless youth and
designing strategic partnerships, democratic participatory theory establishes the
foundation of public, private and nonprofit collaborations in placing ownership of
such models in the hands of the citizenry, or, in this case, the homeless youth
constituents. In this instance, homeless youth own a largely untapped capacity to
inform this discourse about the importance of their role in assisting the population in
living life off of the streets.
In outlining the democratic ethos, Denhardt & Denhardt (2000: 11) suggest that
public servants should be attentive to more than the market and describe
accountability as a matter that is extremely complex. This underscores the
complexity of public, private and nonprofit collaborations and urges caution in how
they are established. This coincides with arguments by Boase (2000) and Pirkis et al.
(2001) identifying the inherent complexities of public, private and nonprofit
partnerships and emphasizing the challenges in conceptualizing such a model. For
this reason, we argue that although the overriding importance of public participation
may not seem necessary in designing effective public, private and nonprofit
collaborations, such models are vastly more complicated than they might seem. Dahl
(1995: 46) agrees and states that the values that justify democracy are human and in
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the midst of these complexities in practice, democratic systems have always fallen
considerably short of the criteria and values that justify democracy.
In this dissertation, public participation is referred to constituent participation
as there are multiple publics involved in this dialogue. Here we are referring to the
youth voice or youth participation in the collaborative model or an enlargement of
the actors involved in the policy process (deLeon 1988: 113). In establishing public,
private and nonprofit collaborations, Denhardt & Denhardt (2000: 549) argued that
through the process of dialogue, brokerage, citizen empowerment, and broad-based
citizen engagement, it is possible to address and resolve both issues and conflicts to
render effective partnerships. In designing such models, democratic participatory
theory posits that the public, private and nonprofit collaborations must adopt a
platform establishing that a concern for democratic values should be paramount in
the way we think about systems of governance (Denhardt & Denhardt 2000: 14).
Vigoda (2002: 527) concurs that the alternative interaction of movement between
responsiveness and collaboration is more realistic for the years ahead.
Collaboration is the key to establishing more effective partnerships among the
public, private and nonprofit sectors. Uusitalo & Rich (1999) propose that this
process must involve all stakeholders in the participatory planning process to be
successful. As a means of representing a democratic process for clarifying the
particular as well as the collective goals and values, Uusitalo & Rich (1999: 103)
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argue that deliberation among stakeholders is considered essential. Not only is this
essential, but as van Eeten et al. (2002: 106) state, the public participation approach is
the linked, comprehensive model for which decision makers have been calling.
3.3.1: Limitations of Constituent Participation Theory
Hajer & Wagenaar (2003) point to both the strengths and the challenges of public
participation theory. While a strong argument exists for its integration into public
policy, there is an outlying question of how to build and implement public
participation into the policy arena. According to Hajer & Wagenaar (2003: 24), for
policymaking, it means not simply the straightforward inclusion of those affected by
public policy in the domain of policy formation, decision making and administrative
implementation, but also the search for the appropriate way of involving the many
others that are affected by it. This raises the question of implementation and
exactly what it means to apply these concepts in practice. DeLeon (1988:114) agrees
that participatory analysis, however laudable it might sound, is not without its
drawbacks. Resource intensive and counterproductive in the conflictual world of
interest group politics, there are inherent challenges to integrating public
participation into policy issues (deLeon 1988:114). In short, the rule by mob issue
comes to light in terms of how many persons can be involved in the policy process
before it becomes too cumbersome and paralyzed to be able to formulate any
decision.
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From a critical view of public participation theory, the role of the public analyst
comes into play. DeLeon (1988:115) raised the question of whether policy analysts
must be objective or if they are involved, vested advocates. Critics argue that
public participation is limited in the ability of the public participant to make an
informed decision given complex social issues such as environmental or welfare
policies. According to DeLeon (1988:114), there are a number of policy issues that
could not afford the time necessary to permit all interested parties to voice their
concern nor the resources to educate these parties on all of the specifics related to
the policy issue in order to make an informed decision.
Denhardt & Denhardt (2000:14) counter this argument with the premise that
through the process of dialogue, brokerage, citizen empowerment, and broad-based
citizen engagement, it is possible to resolve issues and conflicts surrounding
administrative efficiency, responsiveness to agency leadership, bureaucratic
professionalism and administrative discretion. Despite the inherent complexities of
integrating public participation into the policy making process, Denhardt & Denhardt
(2000: 14) argue that a concern for democratic values should be paramount in the
way we think about systems of governance.
3.4: Collaboration Theory
Machiavelli (1514; 1961) believed that changing the way systems existed was one
of the most difficult challenges for government. Outside of social construction
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theory, which essentially grounds this dissertation in terms of how public, private and
nonprofit sectors perceive homeless youth, collaboration theory supports the thesis in
terms of what can happen when these social constructions are realized (Hajer &
Wagenaar 2003). According to DiAlto (2005: 83), constructions embedded in
policies rely heavily on context. The context in which the public, private and
nonprofit sectors collaborate with one another ties into social construction and public
participation theory and underscores why collaboration theory is the third leg that
grounds this dissertation (see Section 3.3). When considering a collaboration
between public, private and nonprofit sectors and how it responds to homeless youth,
Innes & Booher (2003:39) describe such institutionalized arrangements as mere
social constructions rather than real limitations allowing them to imagine and
negotiate a new approach. While social constructions set the stage for this
dissertation, collaboration theory demonstrates why acknowledging these social
constructions is so important.
Innes & Gruber (2001) emphasize this point and demonstrate in the research on
the San Francisco mass transit system that where both interdependence and diversity
are high, a collaborative approach is the most effective policy model because of the
multiple stakeholders involved. Van Eeten et al. (2002) also recognize this in their
public participation research involving water management systems. With respect to
the issue of homeless youth, both sector diversity and interdependence are high.
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Different persons with different interests who, in many ways must all work together
on a daily basis must confront the challenges of homeless youth in Denver. Through
collaboration, if conditions are right, with multiple actors involved and engaged in the
process, and the model is in place where social constructions are realized by all
sectors, the capacity exists for the outcome to be greater than the sum of the parts
(Connick & Innes 2003). On the contrary, without these actors operating from
common ground, or similar social constructions, the process has the capacity to be
arduous and fraught with questionable returns.
Collaboration theory is fundamental to examining structured interactions of the
public, private and nonprofit sector and how they interact with and respond to
homeless youth. Through such structured interactions, Cohen et al. (2001:5) agree
with Connick & Innes (2003) arguing that what emerges is a coherent, self-
sustaining entity that is something more than the sum of pair-wise interactions among
its members. Collaboration theory contends that in building such partnerships, the
key is to transform the dialogue and foster an approach that is an alternative to top-
down decision making (Innes & Boor her 2001). At the same time, actors in each
sector capitalize in different ways and at times can build political capital by
exploiting widely shared negative perceptions of certain groups, thus making
genuine collaboration a valuable but problematic good (Nicholson-Crotty & Meier
2005: 223).
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Collaborative planning is adaptive and creative with multiple ways in which the
different parts can interact with one another. It is without a rigid formula, such that
precisely how the public, private and nonprofit sectors interact with one another
based on their sense of the social constructions that exist is unimportant. What is
critical is that such interaction takes place in a way that is structured with well-
defined ground rules and with plenty of room to work inside the issue area (Innes &
Boor her 2001). Innes & Boor her (2001) underscore the importance of parties
focusing not on their positions but on their interests as a way of setting the foundation
and that all sectors must both engage and ensure that no other player at the table is
ignored, regardless of power differentials and the social constructions that exist.
Hajer & Wagenaar (2003:24) again make the point that collaborative theory exists on
the basis that participation is important and that exclusion is counterproductive;
however, the key to collaboration rests on understanding the collaboration and
asserting the appropriate way of involving the many others involved in the policy
process.
In essence, what we are attempting to do is to define the social constructions that
exist and then in turn, through the collaborative model that has been defined, help a
complex system turn into a complex adaptive system that has the capacity to learn
and evolve through feedback (Innes and Booher 2001:47). Multiple sectors are
involved in addressing issues related to youth homelessness, including the homeless
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youth themselves, and identifying a way to make it more adaptive and intelligent.
Innes & Gruber (2001) assert that when it comes to collaboration, a good plan is one
that responds to the interests of all stake holders and creates joint benefits. By
creating more positive relationships and learning opportunities, we seek to understand
the social constructions that the public, private and nonprofit sectors form (Hajer &
Wagenaar 2003). Furthermore, we investigate how these social constructions might
be affected when these sectors are in collaboration with one another to identify the
joint benefits that exist for all parties in getting homeless youth off of the streets. The
data collected in this dissertation identify what those joint costs and benefits are and
how these sectors must interrelate to foster effective collaboration.
3.4.1: Limitations of Collaboration Theory
While collaboration theory is fundamental to this dissertation, it has limited
capacity to inform. As Innes & Gruber (2001) point out, in examining other planning
styles, collaboration theory undermines political deal making and can be obstructed
by existing bureaucratic infrastructure. Collaboration is unfamiliar and risky and
has the capacity to upset long established arrangements with unknown consequences
(Innes & Gruber 2001:186). The overriding limitation of collaboration theory is its
practicality in responding to complex social issues given an existing bureaucracy and
infrastructure with competing interests.
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Koontz (2005) underscores the complexity of collaboration theory and argues that
stakeholder participation complicates matters. Like deLeon (1988: 55), Koontz
agrees that context counts. Research on collaborative stakeholder demonstrates
that changing policy outcomes does not just rest on the laurels of strong
collaborations. In fact, having more stakeholders at the table without taking the
context into consideration, can lead participants to have a more pessimistic view of
participation (Koontz 2005: 476). Koontz (2005) advises that collaboration is both
time consuming and resource intensive and ultimately, policy successes are driven by
the context. Collaboration theory is limited by the approach the policy makers take to
the existing situation.. .the context. Koontz (2005) urges policy makers to take a
more holistic approach to collaboration and to avoid focusing in on the specific issues
in isolation of the broader context at hand. Ultimately, in this dissertation, what
Koontz (2005) advises is to avoid from focusing solely in on the issue of homeless
youth in the collaborative process and ensure that the stakeholders are taking a
broader approach to the many other variables that weigh into the context during the
planning process.
3.5: Youth Development Theory
Youth development theory emphasizes the importance of youth participation as
collaborative partners with the public, private and nonprofit sectors in helping
homeless youth move off of the streets. Without youth participation, as highlighted
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by both existing literature as well as in the statements of some of Denvers homeless
youths, any collaboration involving the public, private and nonprofit sectors would be
necessarily incomplete (Scandlyn 2000).
Checkoway (2005:15) describes youth participation as a process of involving
young people in the institutions and decisions that affect their lives. Cunnan &
Hughes (2005) view youth development as a process of engaging and transferring
information between young people and other parties, including but not limited to
persons in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This process includes efforts by
young people to organize their own research and community mobilization projects, by
adults in evaluating institutions and agencies, and by youth and adults in
intergenerational partnerships... (Cunnan & Hughes 2005:8).
The youth development literature includes multiple studies that speak to the
importance of youth participation as collaborators in solving complex social issues
involving alcohol, drugs, sex, tobacco and violence (Youth Facts 2003). Such issue
areas do not preclude youth homelessness as described in Chapter II, as the youth
homeless literature makes direct ties to the high incidence of alcohol, tobacco and
drug use, early sexual initiation and violence. Each of these issues is interrelated and
affects outcomes through close relationships and collaboration with parents, families,
schools and other adults in the community (Youth Facts 2003). Catalano et al. (1998)
identify training, involvement in program implementation and involvement in design
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and planning as three key ways to engage youth in positive youth development. In a
study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, integrating youth
development to solve complex social issues can result in both positive outcomes and
prevent potential problem behaviors in the future (Catalano et al. 1998).
Braithwaite (2001) argues that problems such as youth crime and drug abuse are
expensive to communities. Through youth development, it may be possible to have
both a significant impact on costs and outcomes as they relate to these issues.
According to Braithwaite (2001:8), being a beneficiary of care, of cooperative
problem solving when one is young, may be the best way to learn to become caring,
dutiful democratic citizens as adults. Braithwaite (2001) makes the argument that
not only can youth development be an invaluable tool in responding to and solving
complex social issues, such as youth homelessness, but also that by including these
young people in the process, the effect may be more durable and as a consequence,
more cost-effective.
Barton et al. (1997) reported similar findings as they relate to teen pregnancy,
school drop outs, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and violence. Their research
demonstrated that programs designed merely to address problem behaviors are not as
effective and successful as those that incorporate the youth voice as partners in the
collaboration. According to Baron et al. (1997), youth development strengthens
protective factors and responds to specific risks. However, their study also warned
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that education of the other collaborators in the community is critical. Communities
seeking to adopt a comprehensive approach to youth development first need to
promote that unifying vision through the education of key community leaders
(Barton et al. 1997: 490).
While Baron et al. (1997) makes the case that young people should be involved
and empowered, Roth et al. (1999) offer a more in-depth explanation of why this is
important, citing the many protective factors of this theory. The adoption of the
youth development framework arguably optimizes their development and overall
health, and has the capacity to serve as an effective treatment strategy in the
rehabilitation of adolescents in trouble, including substance abusers, violent gang
members, and the like (Roth et al. 1999: 268).
Youth development theory underscores the importance of the youth voice in the
collaborative process and suggests that including young people in partnership with
the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, may ultimately enhance the outcomes. For
the purposes of this dissertation, youth development theory informs the research
questions in terms of the role of the youth voice as part of the public, private and
nonprofit sector partnership and how this overall collaboration lends itself to a better
public policy in moving homeless youth off of the streets.
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3.5.1: Limitations of Youth Development Theory
Obviously, the major limitations involving this theory are that it is largely
undeveloped. Youth development theory has a limited amount of reliable and valid
studies that both inform and advance this particular theory, mostly due to a lack of
published critical research. Furthermore, for this dissertation, youth development
theory serves primarily to underpin the collaborative model in terms of the
importance of the youth voice in the collaboration involving public, private and
nonprofit sectors. As part of its research design, this thesis does not collect data
directly from homeless youth. Therefore, youth development theory, arguing that
existing studies and literature support collaborations formed by the public, private and
nonprofit sectors, is a fourth leg in the dialogue to responding to complex social
issues such as youth homelessness.
3.6: Summary
This chapter has identified four theories that ground this dissertation in its
examination of social constructions of homeless youth. Social construction theory
frames the first proposition of this dissertation and draws from the work of Schneider
& Ingram (1990; 1993; 1997; 2005) to determine whether homeless youth can be
differentially categorized. Public participation theory and collaboration theory
ground the second proposition. Arguably, public participation theory allows for
homeless youth to shift from a less desirable construction (e.g., deviant) to a more
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desirable construction (e.g., dependent or contender). In order for homeless youth to
participate in solving issues such as youth homelessness, the public, private, and
nonprofit sectors must embrace a more collaborative process that actively engages
and empowers homeless youth, as defined by the tenets of youth development theory.
While social construction theory is the dominant theory that frames this
dissertation, it is clear that public participation theory, collaboration theory and youth
development theory each play a supporting role in shaping both the propositions as
well as the methodology.
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4. METHODOLOGY
4.1: Research Questions and Propositions
As set out in the Introduction (see Chapter I) the dissertation asks the following
four questions:
1. Given multiple efforts to study this population, what does youth homelessness
look like in Denver?
2. How do the social constructions articulated by the public, private and
nonprofit sectors define and shape the issue of homeless youth in Denver?
3. Given the first two research questions, what are the public policy implications
of reducing youth homelessness in alignment with the City of Denvers (2005)
Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness {Denvers Road Home)?
4. What is the role of homeless youth with respect to collaborations involving
the public, private and nonprofit sectors?
The following two research propositions frame the investigation of these questions:
Proposition One
Pi: Homeless youth are differentially constructed by the public, private and
nonprofit sectors (Schneider & Ingram 1997).
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Proposition Two
P2: Homeless youth, when viewed in terms of social construction, can be
shifted (e.g., from the deviant to the dependent category) via public,
private and nonprofit sector collaboration and constituent participation.
The first research question is largely addressed in the literature review on youth
homelessness in Chapter II. This dissertation attempts to draw from both the national
and local literature to assemble a more complete overview of youth homelessness in
Denver, Colorado. The second research question in terms of how the public, private
and nonprofit sectors form social constructions is directed by Proposition One.
Proposition One builds on the work of Schneider & Ingram (1997) that contends that
social constructions of existing populations are formed in unique and identifiable
patterns, many of which have been overlooked and understudied in terms of how they
inform public policy.
The third research question taps into the policy implications of how various
sectors socially construct homeless youth and is guided by public participation theory
and collaboration theory as well as the second proposition that investigates upward
shifts in social constructions through collaboration and constituent participation. The
fourth research question informs both propositions in the sense that by determining
the role that homeless youth play in the participatory process as viewed by both
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homeless youth and the three sectors, it is possible to inform collaborations as they
relate to addressing youth homelessness.
It is important to acknowledge at the beginning of this section, and will be
restated periodically throughout this dissertation, that over the past eight years, this
author has been involved in providing, delivering and advocating for services on
behalf of homeless youth. As of January 2006, this author was appointed by Mayor
Hickenlooper to serve as the Project Manager for Denvers Road Home for the City &
County of Denver. For purposes of this dissertation, this inherent bias is
acknowledged. Every effort has been made to design the methodology, conduct the
research and interpret the findings in a manner that ensure the objectivity of this
work. On the other hand, with over eight years of experience interviewing,
researching, creating resources and providing services for homeless youth, this
extensive background lends itself to insights and perspective into this population that
might otherwise not be possible with a time-limited study.
Ultimately, the methodology combines limited qualitative pilot data to generate a
quantitative survey that has construct and internal validity using an approach that
ultimately brings the data together in a way that has the capacity to inform the policy
sciences. DeLeon (1988: 71) emphasized the importance of designing a methodology
that can inform both policy and policy makers and underscored the necessity to be
able to translate sophisticated, technical analysis into language policymakers and the
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public at large could assimilate and to couch recommendations in the political
environs in which policymakers must operate. In designing this methodology, this
dissertation not only generates data that address the research questions, but data that
ultimately inform policymakers and the public at large. The pilot data generated from
a small sample of qualitative interviews serves to shape the quantitative survey as
well as to provide context to the findings. Additional secondary qualitative data
includes the voice of the homeless youth. In this sense, the qualitative data
provides context and definition to the thesis while the quantitative data provides a
more representative view of the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
4.1.1: Propositions
These theoretical premises generate two specific propositions with respect to
public-private collaborations and their effect on homeless youths. With respect to
testing and validation, given that the literature does not offer a comparable metric or
assessment index in which to calibrate these propositions with other collaborative
models, an explanation follows each proposition with respect to how they remain
open to validation or rejection.
Pp Homeless youth are differentially constructed by the public, private and
nonprofit sectors (Schneider & Ingram 1997).
As previously stated, Schneider & Ingram (1997:105) assert, through
degenerative policy-making, almost any construction of events, people, or issues is
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possible and can vie for legitimacy without significant constraints from ethics or from
factual, empirical or scientific essence. Given the limited political and social power
of homeless youth, this population has evolved a network of social support that the
public, private and nonprofit sectors could ultimately socially construct as deviant.
Ingram & Schneider (2005: 20) make the point that deviants accept the problem as
their own fault and operate from the assumption that they deserve nothing but
disrespect, hatred, incarceration, and isolation from society. In many ways, this
depiction is how homeless youth are reported in the literature. Le Roux et al.
(1998:902) describes homeless youth are constructed as nuisances by some and
criminals by other. On the other hand, dependents view themselves as largely
unimportant and needing discipline through support from families, faith communities,
nonprofit organizations and government entities (Ingram & Schneider 2005). The
question rests in where the public, private and nonprofit sectors construct homeless
youth based on these interpretations of deviants and dependents. This dissertation
determines whether actors from the public, private and nonprofit sectors form social
constructions of homeless youth as deviants or are alternatively categorized as
dependents or another grouping as defined by Schneider and Ingram (1993).
/V Homeless youth, when viewed in terms of social construction, can be
shifted (e.g.,from the deviant to the dependent category) via public,
private and nonprofit sector collaboration and constituent participation.
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This second proposition completes the model, such that it follows that consumer
(homeless youth) participation shifts the social constructions as defined in
Proposition One such that deviants more closely resemble dependents and dependents
more closely resemble contenders; the advantaged group remains in tact. A concept
broached by Schneider & Ingram (1993: 336) and deLeon (2005), but never explored
in-depth, this second proposition determines whether it is possible to shift the
specification of the target populations and the type of image that can be created for
them via participatory youth action. Scharf (1988) argues that by providing the
public, private and nonprofit sectors with information about homeless youth, such
social constructions of this population can ultimately shift.
In the event of such a shift, collaboration theory sets the stage for how the public,
private and nonprofit sectors, along with homeless youth can form a partnership to
respond to and move to resolve a complex social issue. What emerges from such a
collaborative dialogue is innovation, approaches that would not even be imaginable
without the collaborative involvement of stakeholders and the social capital they
create (Innes & Booher 2003:49). In essence, by defining the social constructions
that exist among the principal sector-actors and facilitating a collaborative model that
embraces both youth development theory and public participation theory, the
processes are in place to help create a more adaptive and intelligent policy system
(Innes & Booher 2003:55).
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This thesis not only dissects public, private and nonprofit constructions of
homeless youth, but it attempts to better understand how homeless youth can shift
perceptions of them in the public, private and nonprofit sectors toward a more
positive construction. This dissertation investigates this issue to determine whether
other factors, such as a more collaborative model of public policy involving a variety
of different socially constructed groups, might also affect mobilization to a different
social construction.
4.2: Data Set and Sampling
According to Singleton et al. (1993: 391), In their everyday lives, people
frequently use more than one means to solve a problem. Investigating social
constructions that the public, private and nonprofit sectors form of homeless youth
acknowledges the complexity of the topic and employs both ethnography and survey
data to test the hypotheses. The strategy in using both qualitative and quantitative
strategies is to ensure that the selected methods mutually compliment existing
strengths and weaknesses of each other (Singleton et al. 1993; King et al. 1994;
Huberman & Miles 2002). Using a two-stage approach to data collection, this thesis
employs a qualitative pilot study as a means to construct the survey design and
provide context to the survey findings. A series of semi-structured interviews with
key informants from the public, private and nonprofit sectors helped the researcher
helped the researcher create the survey for distribution to a much larger sample
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representative of these three sectors. The number of these interviews is limited as the
intention was not to saturate themes but rather to inform the larger, more
comprehensive survey. Combining methods in this manner is the best way to study
most research topics (Singleton et al. 1993). The Human Subjects Review
Committee at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
reviewed and approved both the qualitative and quantitative survey instruments for
the purposes of this research study (see Appendix VI). A more detailed account of
the research methodology follows.
4.2.1: Qualitative Data
According to Thompson (2001:63), Ethnographies employing thick description
give voice to the concerns of ordinary citizens. These data in this dissertation are
intended to inform the views of the public, private and nonprofit sectors, and to some
degree of homeless youth through secondary data. The purpose is to suggest how
these sectors socially construct homeless youth and, in turn, how these social
constructions influence public policy in assisting this target population. This
methodological approach taps into the context that Le Roux et al. (1998: 906)
argues must exist to affect change through public policy: Thus, street children need
to be treated in context, with an emphasis on strengthening community initiatives and
programs. In this search for underlying patterns, deLeon (1988) recognizes that
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while each situation is unique, there are patterns that can be detected through careful
analysis that takes into account the fact that context is important.
These collaborative models, involving participation of public, private and
nonprofit sectors, cannot be adequately described through survey data alone.
Thompson (2001) points to a lack of existing literature employing such description in
policy-making research. There is a significant gap in the research that addresses
collaboration among the public, private and nonprofit sectors in responding to human
services. Simply understanding service delivery for homeless youth from the
perspectives of the public, private and nonprofit sectors as well as the constituents
(homeless youth) provides insight into the key variables necessary to form effective
service delivery models that assist youth in permanently exiting the streets.
However, understanding individual processes, characteristics, and perspectives is
not sufficient. Snow & Anderson (1993) analyze the intersection of individual traits,
histories, and institutional constraints to understand the situation of homeless men and
women in Austin, Texas. They conclude: Taken together, these observations make
clear that the sources of homelessness reside in neither purely structural nor
individual factors, but in the interaction of the two (1993: 270).
4.2.2: Quantitative Data
Based on the findings from the pilot data collection through qualitative
interviews, a two-page, 24-question Perceptions of Youth Homelessness survey was
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developed to electronically distribute to a sample including subjects from the public,
private and nonprofit sectors in an effort to quantify some of the observations
obtained from the first stage of data collection (see Appendix V). Questions for the
survey were adapted based on both responses from the pilot interviews and guided by
existing literature on social construction, youth development and collaboration
theory. CiviCore set up the quantitative survey to allow for the descriptive and
frequency data to be reviewed and analyzed online from a web-based site. The data
were then exported to an Excel file and analyzed using SPSS for other patterns.
4.2.3: Qualitative Data Sample
Subject Recruitment
The first stage of the dissertation methodology is qualitatively oriented, in which
data from six interviews were collected from actors representing the public, private
and nonprofit sectors. This initial phase was intended to provide baseline data
specific to each of the sectors and to substantiate the second round of data collection.
That is, this data collection was conducted to design the subsequent survey that would
be developed from these efforts. Sampling was purposive, such that these subjects
were recruited via established relationships between the author and his work with
homeless providers in the metropolitan Denver community and were individuals with
extensive experience in their respective fields.
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Each qualitative interview in this pilot round of data collection involved a semi-
structured format to understand the issues relevant to this study of homeless youth
(see Appendix A). This phase of the research took place over three months in the
Denver metropolitan area, between April and June 2006, acquiring six key informant
interviews. Two persons from each sector were represented in this data set. For the
private sector, a local business man who is based on the 16th Street Mall in an area
where there is a high concentration of homeless youth, and an operations manager
who interacts with multiple businesses on the 16th Street Mall was interviewed. For
the public sector, an active member of the Denver City Council and the Executive
Director of the Homeless Commission for the City & County of Denver were
interviewed. Finally, for the nonprofit sector, a manager who works with homeless
youth as well as an executive director who manages a daytime drop-in center for
homeless adults was interviewed.
All research was conducted in public at an agreed upon location. The investigator
used purposive sampling to recruit service providers and experts that are
representative or typical in serving or working with homeless youth as they relate to
the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Following each individual qualitative
interview, the respondent was asked to identify other individuals she/he identified as
members of the target population. Feedback from this purposive sampling helped
define survey distribution in Stage II of this study.
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The qualitative interviews lasted no longer than 30 minutes and each subject
participated in a thorough debriefing process to inform him/her of the intent of this
study (see Appendix C). Again, data collection continued until the data set was able
to support survey development for the second, more comprehensive round of data
collection.
Survey Instrument
A semi-structured questionnaire was developed based on both the research
questions and existing literature regarding social construction, public participation,
youth development and collaboration theory (see Appendix A). This semi-
structured questionnaire was adopted from the survey instrument used by Scandlyn
(2000) in her ethnographic survey of homeless youth in Denver. Questions 1 and 2
inquire into the subjects background and sector, delving into their relation to
homeless youth. Questions 3-5 examines social construction theory and Questions 6-
9 focus on public participation and collaboration theory with Questions 8 and 9 also
drawing out youth development theory. Finally, Questions 10-11 attempt to capture
any information missed during the interview process and identify other potential
subjects for the first stage of data collection (see Table 4.2.3).
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Table 4.2.3 Theoretical Frames of Pilot Survey Data
Question Theoretical Frame or Intent
Tell me about your current position and how long you have been involved in your current role in Denver. Background and sector information; general demographics
Talk about your role in Denver and your relationship with the homeless and runaway youth living on the streets. Follow-up: What other past experiences do you have in working with this population? Background and sector information; general demographics
Describe each of the following sectors and how you think that they perceive homeless youth in Denver (e.g., deviants, dependents, contenders, advantaged): a. Public Sector b. Private Sector c. Nonprofit Sector Social construction theory
Describe how you perceive the population of homeless youth here in Denver (e.g., deviants, dependents, contenders, advantaged): Social construction theory
[Depending on their response to Question #4] What do you think it would take for homeless youth to change your perception of them? Possible Follow-up: How would homeless youth move out of the role of and into the role of or ? (ideviant, dependent, contender, advantaged) Social construction theory
Based on your experience working with homeless youth, what would you describe as the resources that your sector or current position contributes to assisting this population in exiting the streets? Collaboration theory
Given your role as a stakeholder in working with homeless youth, can you talk about some of the Collaboration theory
approaches that you think work in getting homeless youth off of the streets? Follow-up: Can you speak to some of the things that do not work or that are unnecessary in working with homeless youth? or Follow-up: Can you talk about what factors that other sectors bring to the table that are critical in making collaboration possible? Public participation theory
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Table 4.2.3 (continued) Theoretical Frames of Pilot Survey Data
What do you see as some of the obstacles in forming collaborations among the public, private and nonprofit sectors to develop programs for homeless youth? Follow-up: What do you see as the role of the homeless youth in these collaborations? Collaboration theory Public participation theory
Are there best practices or techniques that you have found to be successful in carrying out collaborations involving the public, private and nonprofit sector to respond to human service issues (e.g., homelessness, education, welfare)? Collaboration theory
Can you think of anything else that I might have missed in our conversation that might help me better to understand how collaborations work involving the public, private and nonprofit sectors? Follow-up information
Are there any other key providers or individuals working with homeless youth in public, private or nonprofit sectors that you think I should speak with that would be helpful in better understanding this issue? Snowball sampling
For participating in the research, subjects did not receive any form of
compensation and participation in this study was strictly voluntary. As the intention
of these interviews was to substantiate survey development and, given the small
target sample, the decision was made not to tape record the interview. Extensive
notes were taken during each interview and transcribed within 24 hours to preserve as
much of the integrity of the content as possible. Potential benefits could potentially
be the findings generated from this study that would facilitate the public, private and
nonprofit sector in building more cost-effective, strategic collaborations in assisting
homeless youth in permanently exiting the streets. In accordance with the Human
84