Our understanding of the scope and dynamics of homelessness among unaccompanied youth under 25 continues to grow.
On a single night in January 2015, we know that approximately 45,200 unaccompanied children and youth were counted. And Department of Education data shows that an estimated 89,000 students without a parent or guardian were identified as experiencing homelessness at some point during the 2013-2014 school year.
While we continue to improve our data on youth homelessness, we must also get to work building the comprehensive and coordinated response that young people need to end their homelessness forever.
Factors that contribute to youth homelessness include family problems, economic circumstances, racial disparities, mental health and substance use disorders, and involvement with public systems like child welfare and juvenile justice. Most unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness have significant experience with trauma. Some groups of children and youth experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable, including victims of trafficking and exploitation; youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ); pregnant and parenting youth; youth with special needs or disabilities, and youth of color, including Native American youth.
The varied and unique needs of youth experiencing homelessness require a range of interventions that meet their physical, developmental, and social needs. Strategies should focus on reunifying youth, particularly those under 18, with family or other natural supports, when safe and appropriate. We also need a broader set of interventions, including education and employment supports, and a range of short to longer-term housing.
Prevent youth from becoming homeless by identifying and working with families who are at risk of fracturing.
- Effectively identify and engage youth at risk for, or actually experiencing, homelessness and connect them with trauma-informed, culturally appropriate, and developmentally and age-appropriate interventions.
- Intervene early when youth do become homeless and work toward family reunification, when safe and appropriate.
- Develop coordinated entry systems to identify youth for appropriate types of assistance and to prioritize resources for the most vulnerable youth.
- Ensure access to safe shelter and emergency services when needed.
- Ensure that assessments respond to the unique needs and circumstances of youth and emphasize strong connections to and supported exits from mainstream systems when needed.
- Create individualized services and housing options tailored to the needs of each youth, and include measurable outcomes across key indicators of performance, including education and employment.