Homeless Youth

Homeless youth are young people who are often living on their own, without a permanent or stable place to call home. When some people think of homeless youth, they think of young people who live in shelters or on the streets. However, there are many other scenarios in which a youth might experience homelessness, such as staying in weekly or daily motels, living “doubled up” with another family, living out of their car, or residing with friends and sleeping on the couch. While there is no official count of the exact number of homeless youth, it is estimated that as many as 2.5 million children in the United States are homeless each year.

Youth become homeless for many reasons, but the most common causes are:

  • Experiencing financial hardship
  • Being kicked out of their homes
  • Running away
  • Sexual orientation
  • Aging out of foster care
  • Being abandoned or neglected
  • Abuse
  • Substance abuse
  • Experiencing the death of a family member or guardian

Many homeless youth become homeless suddenly. Homeless youth are different from homeless adults because they often have not learned the essential life skills needed to live on their own, like how to drive or ride a bus, get a job, or pay bills.

Homeless youth are at an increased risk of harm in comparison to other youth their age. They are more likely to experience mental illness, suffer poor health, drop out of school, and become involved with or become victims of criminal activity. Life on the streets is dangerous and unpredictable, leaving homeless youth vulnerable to being exploited, abused, or killed.

If you are a homeless youth, or know someone who is, here are some tips:

  • You don't need to feel guilty or ashamed —Whatever happened to put you in this situation was out of your control. You are not to blame.
  • There are people who care—Tell a trusted adult, such as a teacher, pastor, or counselor, about your situation. Letting authority figures know you are homeless will allow people to help you and get you the support you need.
  • Help is available—In your community, there are places that help homeless youth stay in school, obtain services like access to food, showers, and medical care, and provide shelter and a safe place to sleep.

If you are a homeless youth in need of immediate safety, contact your local Safe Place program or find someone of authority to connect you to help. Remember, you are not alone and there is a path out of homelessness. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are worth it, and help is available!

Additional Homeless Youth Resources                                                            

Check out these websites to learn more:

  • National Alliance to End Homelessness
    This organization is the leading voice on improving federal homelessness policy in the United States. It is committed to building capacity through its Center for Capacity Building and educating opinion leaders via research and education through its Homelessness Research Institute.

  • National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth
    This national membership association is committed to ensuring that homeless youth and children obtain educational excellence and academic success. It provides technical assistance to state and federal administrators, homeless liaisons, educators, advocates, and parents and children to help homeless youth obtain the resources they need to succeed in school.

  • National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty—Youth & Education Resources
    Federal law protects homeless youth so they can stay enrolled in school and be granted additional academic support. This national legal group’s website outlines the rights of homeless students to enroll and participate in school.

  • National Network for Youth
    This organization promotes policy advocacy and public education to further the discovery of effective strategies to reduce the number of youth who experience homelessness in the United States.

  • United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
    This government agency is committed to ending youth homelessness on a national scale by year 2020. This website provides research and strategies for communities to work together with their government to end youth homelessness on a local and national scale.

  • Youth.gov
    This government website provides information about youth homelessness, including government reports, resources, and details about government programs that are aimed at preventing and ending youth homelessness.


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