National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

About Runaway and Homeless Youth

Recent estimates indicate that one in 10 young adults age 18 to 25 and at least one in 30 adolescents age 13 to 17 experience some form of homelessness unaccompanied by a parent or guardian over the course of a year. There are at least 700,000 homeless young people in the United States, affecting about 3 percent of households with 13- to 17-year-olds1. Many of these young people don’t match the traditional idea of what “homelessness” looks like. Many of them go to school or work, participate in community activities, and enjoy social lives with friends who have safe, dependable places to sleep every night.

However, homeless youth lack the wider social networks and supports that their peers often take for granted. They may continually “couch surf,” moving from one temporary bed to another. They may lack stable adult figures in their lives to help them navigate emotional and economic obstacles. They may face additional challenges, including domestic violence, pregnancy or parenthood, or be the victims of sex or labor trafficking. They are disproportionately low-income, LGBTQ, or members of disadvantaged populations2. As adults, they are statistically likely to struggle with money, careers, and personal health3.

The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), part of the Administration for Children and Families, is one of the primary funders of programs that help runaway and homeless youth obtain shelter and learn skills that enable a successful transition to adulthood. FYSB funds several types of programs that help homeless youth:

Assistance and services for runaway and homeless youth are also provided by other federal agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Education. Information on these agencies is available in the RHY Partners section of our website.


 1 Voices of Youth Count, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, 2017. Available at http://voicesofyouthcount.org/brief/national-estimates-of-youth-homelessness

 2 “Homeless and Runaway Youth,” National Conference of State Legislatures, 2016. Available at http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/homeless-and-runaway-youth.aspx

 3 “Consequences of Youth Homelessness,” National Network for Youth. Available at: https://www.nn4youth.org/wp-content/uploads/IssueBrief_Youth_Homelessness.pdf