Here’s What We Know About Homeless Youth – The State of Homelessness 2014

written by Sam Batko
June 3, 2014

Last week, we released The State of Homelessness 2014. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be pulling out some interesting data points from the report. Today, we’ll take a deeper dive into one homeless subpopulation that has previously been uncounted: unaccompanied children and youth. Last year was the first time that communities reported specific data on homeless unaccompanied children and youth. The 2013 count is likely not an accurate representation of the true scale of youth homelessness, but having separate data on the population is a small step in the right direction.

Before diving into youth homelessness in depth, a quick review: In 2013, there were 610,042 people experiencing homelessness on a given night. 63 percent were individuals; 37 percent were people in families; and 18 percent were considered chronically homeless.

What you need to know about unaccompanied children and youth:

  • Unaccompanied children and youth made up 8 percent of the overall homeless population on a given night in 2013—that is 46,924 unaccompanied minors and youth under the age of 25. And, that is probably a gross undercount.
  • 6,197 unaccompanied minors experienced homelessness on a given night in 2013 and fewer than 4,200 beds were dedicated to that population, meaning that, best case scenario, about 2,000 unaccompanied minors were without a place to sleep for the night.
  • In reality, 3,675 unaccompanied minors were unsheltered on a given night in 2013—about 60 percent of the homeless unaccompanied minors population .
  • Overall, 50 percent of unaccompanied children and youth were unsheltered on a given night.
  • 10 states accounted for nearly 70 percent of the unaccompanied children and youth population: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.

What does all this mean for efforts in ending homelessness for youth?

First and foremost, it means that unaccompanied children and youth, and particularly unaccompanied minors, arguably one of the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable populations, are over-represented on the streets, in cars, or other places not intended for habitation. Local capacity to serve these children and youth must increase quickly.

On a more positive note, for the first time, we have real data, flawed as it may be, on the scale of youth homelessness. This is a starting point from which to improve counts of unaccompanied youth—particularly unsheltered counts—and to start to build the infrastructure to the scale needed to end youth homelessness.