Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month

In recognition of November as Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month, Applied Survey Research will be posting a series of blog posts highlighting the unique characteristics of young people experiencing homelessness, the challenges and successes found in responses to the crisis, and ways stakeholders can take action to prevent and end homelessness among young people in their communities.

On any given night, over 35,000 unaccompanied youth under the age of 25 are experiencing homelessness in the United States. Nearly one-third of these young people live in California—the majority of whom are sleeping outdoors, living in vehicles or tents, and residing in abandoned buildings. Although largely considered an undercount due to the often hidden and transitory nature of youth homelessness, these numbers signal a crisis in California and nationwide as local counts of youth experiencing homelessness continue to rise.

These numbers signal a crisis in California and nationwide as local counts of youth experiencing homelessness continue to rise.

2016 Point-in-Time Count Estimates of Unaccompanied Homeless Youth, by State

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2016). Estimates of unaccompanied homeless youth by state.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2016). Estimates of unaccompanied homeless youth by state.

While youth experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable people living on the streets, they are also among the most invisible and hardest to reach. Many young people will avoid revealing their housing crisis due to stigmas associated with homelessness, fear of being reported to child protective services, and mistrust of service providers. The experience of homelessness among young people also frequently entails cycling in and out of various housing situations, such as temporarily staying with friends or extended family members, sleeping in motels, and trading sex for a place to stay. While young people in these circumstances are largely missing from national and local data, this housing insecurity has profound effects on young people’s personal safety, physical and mental health, educational achievement, employment opportunities, and access to social supports.  

Housing insecurity has profound effects on young people’s personal safety, physical and mental health, educational achievement, employment opportunities, and access to social supports.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month seeks to raise the profile of young people experiencing homelessness, and to underscore solutions and the role the public plays in ending youth homelessness. Over the next month, we hope you will join us in learning more about the unique needs and challenges of young people experiencing homelessness, and in discovering how to better ensure all youth have access to safe and stable homes.

Additional Resources

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