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:
- Basic Center Programs provide short-term shelter, food, clothing, medical care, crisis services, and other assistance to young people under age 18.
- Transitional Living Programs offer longer-term housing, education and employment services, mental and physical health care for young people ages 16 to 22.
- Street Outreach Programs send trained counselors out to meet homeless young people in public, offering crisis intervention services, basic needs, and access to emergency shelter.
- Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Youth Programs support homeless pregnant and/or parenting young people, as well as their dependent children.
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.
More About Runaway and Homeless Youth: RHYi Issue Briefs
Issue Briefs, developed by the National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families, provide information about runaway and homeless youth and the issues that affect them. Each Issue Brief will add to an ongoing series exploring young people's experiences and concerns.
- Facts and Figures About Runaway and Homeless Youth — Causes of running away and homelessness among young people are many and varied, as are potential consequences. This issue brief provides some of the facts and figures related to runaway and homeless youth in the U.S.
- Runaway and Homeless Youth, Mental Health, and Trauma-Informed Care — Whether it’s abuse, the consequences of living in poverty, a lack of empathy and support for their self-identity, or some combination of the three, runaway and homeless youth (RHY) often experience significant challenges to their happiness and well-being. Trauma-informed care can help RHY rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.
- The Health Needs of Homeless Youth — Despite the importance of a healthy youth population, runaway and homeless youth face many barriers to physical health and many obstacles to obtaining care.
- Education Help for Runaway and Homeless Youth — For more than 30 years, one piece of federal legislation has ensured that runaway and homeless youth receive the same educational opportunities as their peers with stable housing.
- Trauma-Informed Care for the Full Range of RHY Services — A trauma-informed approach is important for runaway and homeless youth across the spectrum of youth services, including health care, education, and juvenile justice.
- The Overlap of Human Trafficking and Runaway and Homeless Youth — Some populations are at greater risk for trafficking than others, and runaway and homeless youth are among the most vulnerable.
- COVID-19 Guidance for Youth Homelessness Service Providers — The coronavirus public health emergency creates challenges for organizations working with runaway and homeless youth.
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