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|About 50,000 youth in the U.S. sleep on the street for six months or more. Homeless youth face unique developmental challenges and vulnerability.|
It’s not always easy to identify youth on the streets through typical counts of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness. Homeless youth are less likely to spend time in the same places as homeless people who are in an older age range. They are often less willing to disclose that they’re experiencing homelessness or may not even identify as homeless. They also may work harder to try to blend in with peers who aren’t homeless.
For the first time in 2013, the Department of Housing and Urban Development called for communities to conduct a youth-inclusive count that would include unaccompanied homeless youth, up to 24-years-old. That year in January, 46,924 unaccompanied homeless children and youth were counted. Given the difficulty of counting homeless youth, that estimate is likely an undercount.
The Alliance estimates that during a year there are approximately 550,000 unaccompanied, single youth and young adults up to age 24 who experience a homelessness episode of longer than one week. Approximately 380,000 of those youth are under the age of 18. While these are rough estimate made using imperfect information, it is a good starting point from which communities and the federal government can begin to scale resources and interventions.
To learn more about the Alliance’s analysis of the available data on homeless youth, read An Emerging Framework for Ending Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness.
While there are evaluations of programs to assist homeless youth, there is very little research comparing interventions and none examining how different interventions address the issues of the different subpopulations. Nevertheless, communities have reasonable evidence to increase support to family intervention efforts and to target existing housing programs to youth with the highest needs.
Ultimately, better, more accurate data must be collected on the number of youth that experience homelessness as well as the effective interventions to end homelessness for youth. Currently, only approximately 50,000 youth per year are served by targeted homeless youth programs. Clearly this falls far short of demand and more resources are needed to respond adequately to youth homelessness and communities should include youth in their long-term strategic planning efforts to end homelessness for all populations. Communities should work to: