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December/January 2013Vol. 13, No. 11Digital Media and Drop-In Centers for Youth

Drop-in centers for homeless youth offer an opportunity to provide exposure to and instruction in communications technology for this population. A recent article in the Children and Youth Services Review shows how integrating digital media at drop-in centers can foster relationships and teach important life and job skills to homeless and runaway youth. The article centers on the New Tech for Youth Sessions program in Seattle, WA, that provides youth with one-on-one instruction and technical training.

The New Tech for Youth Sessions is a partnership between Street Youth Ministries in Washington State and the University of Washington Information School. The program offers 13 classes to 75 youth ages 13–22 over the course of 16 months. Program goals are twofold: (1) Create an environment where youth interact one-on-one with drop-in staff in order to develop trust and strengthen relationships and (2) help youth develop life and job skills through technology, including the following:

  • Use digital media to express goals and set goals for their future
  • Form and manage an online identity
  • Develop language and written skills
  • Use the Internet to find useful information for achieving life goals

Program participants receive three incentives as they move through the course. At the first class, students receive a thumb drive for storing documents. At the third class, students are granted media time with the center's media tools during drop-in hours. At the final session, youth receive an iPod and a $150 gift card for purchasing music. The iPod is intended to instill a sense of self-worth for youth who typically receive secondhand items.

The authors note the lack of literature about integrating digital technology into drop-in centers and hope this program can serve as an example for other centers that serve homeless and runaway youth. The article includes lessons learned from the New Tech for Youth Sessions program.

"How to Integrate Digital Media into a Drop-In for Homeless Young People for Deepening Relationships Between Youth and Adults," by D. Hendry, J. Woelfer, R. Harper, T. Bauer, B. Fitzer, and M. Champagne, was published in the Children and Youth Services Review, 33(5), 2011. It is available here: (318 KB)