Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Lisa Kiesel. Ph.D., LICSW


Social Work


This quantitative research project sought to explore the relationship between ACE score, homelessness, PTSD and substance use in a homeless youth population. 161 participants, age 18-21, participated in the 29 question survey, with 40% of youth indicating they were currently homeless, and 86% indicating they were homeless in the past. Mean ACE score was 4.15, with an average duration of homelessness of 17.7 months. 48% of the population screened positively for PTSD, and 83% indicated they used substances in the last six months with 39% using marijuana daily. ACE score, rates of PSTD and substance use was found to be higher among youth who had been homeless compared to those who hadn’t been homeless. ACE score was also found to be higher in youth who screened positively for PTSD and used substances. Additionally, participants that identified as LGBTQ or female had higher rates of ACEs, PTSD, and sexual abuse than participants that identified as heterosexual or male. Youth identified as “couch hoppers” were found to be more vulnerable than youth accessing shelters, and equally as vulnerable as those youth staying on the street. These findings indicate a high need for mental health services in the homeless youth field, as well as an increased need for shelter space and long term housing solutions to move youth out of homeless. Agencies working with homeless youth should be urged to adopt trauma informed philosophies, and re-evaluate how needs are assessed with regards to youth who are couch hopping or refusing shelter usage.

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