Report of Homeless Youth Counts Around the Nation Shows the Precarious Situations of Homeless Youth

Nationwide, there are more than 46,000 homeless youth.  Across the country, 46,808 homeless unaccompanied youth and parenting youth were identified on a single night in January 2015.  On that night, there were 36,907 homeless unaccompanied youth and 9,901 homeless parenting youth with 17,069 unaccompanied youth (including 2,380 children and 14,689 young adults) and 439 parenting youth without shelter.

To prevent and end homelessness of homeless youth, federal agencies have established and renewed a goal to prevent and end homelessness of youth by 2020.  In the 2015 Amendment to this goal, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness stated that better tools and integration of data systems are needed to improve understanding of the characteristics and needs of youth who are experiencing homelessness.

To better understand youth homelessness and the characteristics and needs of youth who are experiencing homelessness, several cities, counties, and states have counted and surveyed homeless and unstably housed youth in recent years.  To prove a more national picture of youth homelessness, the information gathered from the counts and surveys conducted in a single and the most recent year (2015) are included in a report that will be released tomorrow.

In 2015, at least fifteen locations surveyed homeless and unstably housed youth and are included in the report: Chicago, Illinois; Connecticut; Metropolitan Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Maine (rural); Maine (urban); Hampden County, Western Massachusetts; Berkshire, Franklin, and Hampshire Counties, Western Massachusetts; New York City, New York; Reno, Nevada; San Francisco, California; Santa Clara County, California; Seattle/King County, Washington; Yolo County, California.

The surveys include a wide variety of homeless and unstably housed youth.  The surveys encompass areas in eleven different states, in different regions of the country, and in both urban and rural areas.  In these locations, 5,251 homeless and unstably housed youth were counted and 2,945 were surveyed.

Ages of Homeless Youth_FinalFinal

The report summarizes thirteen characteristics of the homeless youth who were surveyed: age, education, gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, employment,
domestic violence experience, homelessness of parents, foster care experience, pregnant or parenting status, veteran status, substance use experience, physical and mental health, and justice experience.

Homeless youth surveyed included both children and young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 and many had limited education and employment opportunities.  Similar to the proportion of children and young adults nationwide, 11% of the homeless youth surveyed were children and 89% were young adults.  Although most homeless children were currently in school, less than half of homeless youth were currently in school, many homeless youth without a high school diploma were not currently in school, and few homeless young adults had completed some college.  Homeless youth have employment in each location, but at relatively low levels of between 10% and 36%.

Gender of Homeless Youth_Final

Many homeless youth have precarious or dangerous family situations and have experienced domestic violence, have homeless parents, have prior foster care experience, or are pregnant or parents with between a fourth and half of homeless youth surveyed having experienced family or domestic violence, between a tenth and a third reporting their parents were homeless, between one-fourth and three-fourths having prior foster care experience, and between one percent and two-thirds pregnant or parenting children of their own.

Homeless youth also contend with health issues arising from military experience, substance use, and their families and difficulties.  Between 1% and 5% of homeless youth surveyed were veterans or had military service.  Between 15% and 38% of homeless youth surveyed reported alcohol, drug, or substance use.  Overall, 5% to 20% of homeless youth surveyed reported a physical disability, 1% to 10% reported a developmental disability, 12% to 70% reported a mental health concern, 7% to 22% reported chronic health conditions, and 2% to 12% reported having HIV/AIDS.

To prevent and end homelessness of the nation’s youth, the experiences and difficulties endured by homeless youth and youth at-risk of homelessness must be considered and ameliorated.  The report and upcoming blogs will describe additional facets that should be addressed to reduce youth homelessness.

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