Tuned Souls: The Role of Music in the Lives of Homeless Young People
Woelfer, Jill Palzkill
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Although music is considered to be an important part of adolescence and young adulthood, little is known about music and homeless youth. Accordingly, this dissertation research investigated the role of music in the lives of homeless young people, aged 15-25. The study was conducted in Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia and engaged homeless young people (n=202) and service providers staff who work at agencies that provide support for homeless young people (n=24). Homeless young people completed surveys (n=202), design activities, which included drawing and story writing (n=149), and semi-structured interviews (n=40). Service providers completed semi-structured interviews (n=24). Data analysis included descriptive analysis of survey data and qualitative coding of the design activities and interview responses. Findings indicated that music was an important part of everyday life for homeless young people, who listened to music daily (98%), owned music players (89%), and had wide-ranging and eclectic tastes in music which did not vary based on location. Music played a role in emotional control and regulation, in relationships with other people, and homeless young people engaged with music not only through listening, but also by singing, dancing and playing musical instruments. Additionally, the study shows that public libraries and service agencies are key places for homeless young people to access the Internet in order to listen to music, despite evidence that 22% of participants (45/202) had been banned at one time or another from either libraries or service agencies. Findings also indicated that risk-taking behaviors were high among the homeless young people but did not show that music led to particular behaviors. Finally, analysis of the drawings and stories from the design activities indicated that homeless young people could imagine how music devices could help homeless youth in practical ways as well as play a role in service provision for homeless youth and in building relationships with the mainstream community.
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