In 2012, an estimated 1,800 African-American boys and young men under the age of 18 stayed in emergency or transitional housing for at least one night in Philadelphia. From 2011 to 2013, the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) in Philadelphia housed 376 young boys and male teens. During this period, staff noticed that the boys and young men living in PEC’s emergency, transitional, and permanent housing were experiencing disproportionate challenges related to mental health, academic performance, interaction with authority figures, and positive relationships with adult males.
Through her Emerging Leader Fellowship, Leigh Wilson worked with the People’s Emergency Center to carry out a community-based research study designed to understand the unique needs of African-American school age boys living in PEC’s housing programs. Leigh developed a literature report on the impact of race, gender, and homelessness on young people; a qualitative report on the perspectives and experiences of PEC residents, both youth and adults; and a quantitative analysis featuring data on the average length of stay, the age distribution of children and youth, and the total number of residents served in each of PEC’s housing programs. Lastly, Leigh worked with PEC to host a community forum about the specific needs and experiences of African American boys in the homelessness system.