Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Colette Daiute

Committee Members

Maryiam Villalobos-Solis

Brett Stoudt

Michelle Billies

Judith Samuels

Subject Categories

Community Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Development Studies | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Welfare | Urban Studies


homeless, youth, shelter


Many studies have examined unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness; however, a relative silence persists about the lives of youth and young adults (YYA) while in family homeless shelters. This study aims to fill the gap in the literature about the lives of youth residing in family shelters and to learn about successful transitions from adolescence to young adulthood while experiencing family homelessness. This transition interacts with various social collectives (family, peers, community), political institutions (municipal, state, and federal), and an overwhelming economic system (global racial capitalism). These complex perspectives are considered with a narrative activity-meaning system research design to understand the structural and personal dynamics of homelessness systems (Daiute, 2013). The complex and life-defining scale of the New York City homelessness system is described in this analysis as the Homeless Industrial Complex (HIC), comprising nested collectives of institutional actors, youth, and their families, functionally limiting the individual autonomy of those experiencing homelessness within a political-economic practice that often ensnares generations of families. This dissertation argues that the everyday stories of Black, Indigenous and Historically Oppressed Persons (BIHOP) youth in New York City tier-II family shelters shed light on the their daily lives interact with the policies and actions of the HIC, often resulting in the reduction of the individual autonomy of youth. By foregrounding youth perspectives in this complex interaction of institutions and lives, this study also seeks the expertise of young people at the center of the system. Findings from this study demonstrate that the HIC is dynamic and reflexive to the political realities of the moment, and centers the voices and interests of institutional actors over those most impacted by policy outcomes. While the ebb and flow of policitcal changes, participants in this study shared their longer views. I sample those diverse perspectives expressed with institutional and unique voices, including policy and mission statements, regulatory materials, and interviews with a focus group of young adults who experienced family homelessness in an New York City Department of Homeless Services tier-II shelter. Young adults who successfully transitioned with their families to permanent housing provide the lived experience of the system, having grown up within it and navigating their way out. With a snowball method, I reached out to a group of experts, who then shared narratives in three genres inviting different dimensions of their vast knowledge. This dissertation presents this methodology and findings of these intersecting actors in the homeless system, foregrounding the youth primarily as central knowledge-builders and subjects of the system.