Background: Art has been shown to be an empowering and engaging entity with numerous benefits to vulnerable populations, including the homeless persons and young adults. However, little is known how homeless young adults perceive the use of art as messages that can communicate the danger of initiating or continuing drug and alcohol use.
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to solicit perspectives of homeless, drug-using young adults as to how art can be used to design messages for their peers about the danger of initiating or continuing drug and alcohol use.
Methods: Qualitative methodology via focus group discussions was utilized to engage 24 homeless young adults enrolled from a drop-in site in Santa Monica, California.
Results: The findings revealed support for a myriad of delivery styles, including in-person communication, flyers, music, documentary film, and creative writing. The young adults also provided insight into the importance of the thematic framework of messages. Such themes ranged from empowering and hopeful messages to those designed to scare young homeless adults into not experimenting with drugs.
Conclusion: The findings indicate that in addition to messages communicating the need to prevent or reduce drug and alcohol use, homeless young adults respond to messages that remind them of goals and dreams they once had for their future, and to content that is personal, real, and truthful. Our research indicates that messages that reinforce protective factors such as hope for the future and self-esteem may be as important to homeless young adults as information about the risks and consequences of drug use.