Services for Runaway and Homeless Youth
This chapter provides a discussion of services currently available for runaway and homeless youth. According to the authors, runaway and homeless youth are the most understudied and underserved subgroup among the homeless population. Estimates of the number of homeless and runaway youth range from 730,000 to 1.3 million nationwide. The authors write that studies indicate not only that homeless youth are increasing in number, but also that their problems are increasing in severity. The authors review the characteristics of the homeless and runaway youth population, and the changes that population has experienced, underscoring that today's homeless and runaway youth reflect deep-seated structural changes in the American family, the economy, community support systems, and social institutions. According to the authors, "multiproblem" is used more than any other adjective by researchers and practitioners to describe runaway and homeless youth, referring both to the environments from which they come andthe problems they bring with them. Compared to the 1980s, today's homeless youth are both older and younger; have more substance abuse problems; register more pregnancies; are more involved in gangs and violence; have higher rates of emotional disturbances; have more health problems; are more culturally diverse; and have higher rates of school failure. In addition, as more of today's youth identify themselves as gay or lesbian, their risk of being forced from their homes increases. The authors review the programs available to homeless and runaway youth and the changes experienced by these programs.