Climbing the ‘scaffolded city’: tactics used by homeless young adults to navigate employment barriers

Timothy P. Huffman, Casey Leier, Mark A. Generous, Margaret M. Hinrichs, Luke Brenneman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Homeless young adults face a complex set of challenges as they navigate life and work. This study aims to guide scholarly and activist understandings of homelessness, communication, and employment by exploring homeless young adults’ struggles and tactics regarding work. Specifically, we argue that homeless young adults experience a ‘scaffolded city’ phenomenon, where regulated employment is all but out of reach due to the mutually reinforcing structures undergirding work and home. These built, imagined, and discursive structures manifest as domestic, bureaucratic, social support, and health barriers. We also highlight various tactics used by homeless young adults to navigate life and work despite these barriers, including communicating intentionally, coordinating nonprofit organizational resources, connecting to a higher purpose, maintaining motivation, and seeking entrepreneurial opportunities. We frame these findings to be used as a set of practical tools to design and evaluate homeless young adult employment programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-167
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Homeless
  • communication
  • employment
  • social justice
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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