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|Young parents and their children make up a significant portion of the families served in the homelessness assistance system annually. It is important to serve these parents as both a parent and as the young adult that they are.|
The Alliance estimates that young families, defined as households being headed by a young adult under the age of 25, make up more than 25 percent of the overall number of homeless families sheltered within the homelessness assistance system over the course of a year. This means at least an approximate 50,000 to 60,000 of homeless households with children are headed by a young adult.
As families with young heads of households make up a significant portion of the families currently being served, and have traditionally been served and included within that system for research purposes, it is likely that families headed by young adults broadly look the same as other homeless families. Like most homeless families, the majority of homeless families headed by a young adult are expected to be homeless only once and for a short duration.
While families headed by a young parent are able to access the larger more resourced continuum of care and are generally considered to be similar to other homeless families, young parents also have similarities to their youth counterparts. Similar to unaccompanied, homeless youth and young adults who are not parenting, family reunification should be seen as a positive outcome and facilitated by programs serving parenting young adults when appropriate.
Of those young parents who are not able to reunify with family another supportive adult, for the large majority of them, like the large majority of homeless families in general, rapid re-housing and relatively small amounts of assistance is often sufficient to end homelessness for this population.
The following chart provides estimates of the number of households with children headed by a young adult ages 18 to 24 who are homeless nationwide over the course of a year broken down into the commonly accepted homeless family typology developed by Dr. Dennis Culhane. The estimated 36,000 – 37,500 households that fall in the “temporary category and the 10,000 households that fall in the “long-term stayers” category are the households for whom reunification with family and rapid re-housing are the most likely to be successful and cost-efficient interventions. For some young parents, longer term financial assistance and services may be necessary. Those households are most likely to fall into the 2,500 to 4,000 households that make up the “episodic/chronic” category of families. There is some evidence to indicate that young families may be over-represented in the episodic/chronic category, though there are not clear reasons why. Regardless of their program duration, those serving young parents and families should be aware of the needs of the young adult as both a parent and as an adolescent.