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“It seems like no one cares”: Youth Perspectives on Housing Abandonment and Urban Blight

Teixeira, Samantha (2014) “It seems like no one cares”: Youth Perspectives on Housing Abandonment and Urban Blight. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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A large body of research suggests that environmental health hazards, specifically, abandoned properties, are a growing problem that disproportionately affects low-income communities of color. Youth in affected neighborhoods are at particularly high risk for exposure to outdoor hazards due to their increased likelihood to use active means of travel in their daily activities. Living in a community characterized by housing abandonment has been associated with myriad negative physical and mental health outcomes among youth. Though there is a large body of work demonstrating that various features of neighborhoods have salient effects on outcomes for youth, fewer studies have documented how youth experience abandoned properties in neighborhoods.
The purpose of this study was to address this gap by learning what meaning youth ascribe to abandoned properties in a community with high levels of vacancy. I used a mixed methods community based participatory research approach that included participatory photo mapping, a method that combines photography, youth-led neighborhood tours, and advocacy; in depth interviews with youth; and spatial analysis. The study aimed to extend existing theory, specifically broken windows theory, from the perspective of youth in a neighborhood with high levels of housing vacancy.
Youth described their own version of broken windows theory, a process through which abandoned properties exert their impact on young people and their community. This multi-step process includes: 1) unrepaired signs of incivility signal that no one cares; 2) residents withdraw, become more fearful; 3) untended property becomes “fair game” leading to more crime and incivilities; and finally, 4) a breakdown of community control and individual and community vulnerability.
This study suggests that abandoned properties are a visual cue that no one cares about the neighborhood. Youth reported that vacant properties facilitate delinquency and play a role in a complex web of community decline. They also conveyed that the solution may rest in the hands of youth and described making meaningful changes through small efforts like community beautification. These findings provide the impetus for a number of social work practice, research, and policy implications and suggest the need for future youth-engaged intervention research.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Teixeira, Samanthasnt5@pitt.eduSNT5
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWallace, Johnjohnw@pitt.eduJOHNW
Committee MemberGreeno, Catherinekgreeno@pitt.eduKGREENO
Committee MemberRosen, Danieldar15@pitt.eduDAR15
Committee MemberYonas,
Date: 24 April 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 April 2014
Approval Date: 24 April 2014
Submission Date: 23 April 2014
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 207
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Social Work > Social Work
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: community based participatory research built environment housing youth
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2014 18:50
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2019 05:15


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