Intervention services, housing options, and transitional support for the foster care system are strategies to end youth homelessness.

Unaccompanied homeless youth present unique challenges to existing homeless assistance systems.  Most organizations are built around the needs of homeless adults and families – not unaccompanied young people. Homeless youth and young adults are at pronounced risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, chemical or alcohol dependency, and death.


Although the Alliance estimates that as many as 50,000 youth are sleeping on the streets, definitive data on youth homelessness does not yet exist.

With these limitations in mind, the Alliance recommends the following as strategies to end youth homelessness:

  • Early and intense intervention plus family reunification, if possible. Sometimes, youth simply need to be reconnected to their family and provided case management to resolve the internal conflict that led to homelessness. Other times, early and intense intervention by child welfare services or other public programs can help end youth homelessness.
  • An expansion of long-term housing options consistent with the developmental needs of young people. Unfortunately, some youth cannot be safely connected to adults and families and require a safe, alternative form of permanent housing, which should include the services and case management necessary to attend to their needs.
  • After-care support for youth aging out of foster care. Despite all that is not known, it is clear that the foster care system and other state-run institutions play a key role in youth homelessness. Young people aging out of the foster care system often do not have the resources to transition safety and productively into their communities. Life skills, including job training, higher or practical education, and needs-based case management are all necessary to help ease the way from foster care to adulthood.


Library Resources

Webinar | June 18, 2012
This webinar discusses the importance of family intervention; the practices used to reunify and connect homeless youth with their parents; and a model designed to decrease risky behaviors.
Solutions Brief | November 17, 2011
When runaways and homeless youth cannot be reunited with their families, the creation of housing models that also address the service needs of youth is one solution to ending youth homelessness. The goal of this brief is to outline a spectrum of youth housing models that connect affordable housing, self-sufficiency services, and positive youth development approaches. This brief examines youth housing combined with positive youth development services and highlights four housing models and programs that demonstrate promise in housing for older adolescents and young adults.
Report | October 5, 2011
Annual prevalence estimates for homeless youth in the U.S. have ranged as high as 1.6 million among those aged 13-17 (Ringwalt et al., 1998). In this report, researchers present a history of typologies of homeless youth and also suggest recommendations for further research on this population.
Best Practice | June 17, 2011
First Place for Youth is a nonprofit organization that serves youth who are preparing to age out of foster care or who have recently aged out of care and are experiencing a housing crisis.
Webinar | November 4, 2010
This webinar, the first in a series from the Alliance and the National Network for Youth, will feature tips for including youth in your community's point-in-time count.
Webinar | October 27, 2010
Ending Youth Homelessness - Strategies for Increasing Community Support and Improving Your Ten Year Plan.
Toolkits | October 20, 2010
The Alliance and the National Network for Youth recommend that communities fully include homeless youth in their local January 2011 Point in Time (PIT) counts by using the strategies in this brief.
Solutions Brief | August 3, 2009
This issue brief identifies proven interventions from the fields of child welfare, community mental health, and juvenile justice, and it promotes their use as a model for youth homelessness prevention and early intervention. It is directed at community planners and youth advocates, who should view these services as critical components of a service and housing spectrum that can end youth homelessness.
Solutions Brief | April 10, 2009
This two-page brief provides an overview of the prevalence and experience of LGBTQ youth, causal factors, and risks to LGBTQ youth while homeless.
Solutions Brief | December 8, 2008
This report highlights the incidence of homelessness among LGBTQ youth and the vulnerability of LGBTQ youth to becoming homeless. As compared to their heterosexual peers, LGBTQ youth face a greater risk of exploitation. This brief explores pathways into homelessness for LGBTQ youth and ways to end homelessness for this group. It also includes a chart on the systems components for addressing homelessness among all youth, including LGBTQ youth.
Solutions Brief | August 10, 2006
This issue brief reviews the key issues surrounding youth homelessness, including causes and characteristics of homeless youth. It also contains an introductory explanation of the youth housing continuum, a development model for stable and supportive housing for young adults and policy implications regarding youth homelessness.