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in America is
growing at an
Alarming Rate


Help Fight Teen Homelessness

Causes of homelessness among youth
fall into three inter-related categories:
family problems, economic problems,
and residential instability.
Many homeless youth leave home after
years of physical and sexual abuse,
strained relationships, addiction of a
family member, and parental neglect.
Disruptive family conditions are the
principal reason that young people leave
home: in one study, more than half of
the youth interviewed during shelter
stays reported that their parents
either told them to leave or knew they
were leaving and did not care

Homeless youth face many challenges
on the streets. Few homeless youth are
housed in emergency shelters as a
result of lack of shelter beds for

youth, shelter admission policies, and a

preference for greater autonomy.
Because of their age, homeless youth
have few legal means by which they can
earn enough money to meet basic needs.
Many homeless adolescents find that
exchanging sex for food, clothing, and
shelter is their only chance of survival
on the streets. In turn, homeless youth
are at a greater risk of contracting
AIDS or HIV-related illnesses.
Estimates for percentages of homeless
youth infected with HIV are generally
around 5%, but one study in San
Francisco found that 17% of homeless
youths were infected (Health
Resources and Services Administration
2001). It has been suggested that the
rate of HIV prevalence for homeless
youth may be as much as 2 to 10 times
higher than the rates reported for
other samples of adolescents in the
United States (National Network for
Youth, 1998).

Every Year, More Than 2 Million Kids in

America Will Face a Period of
Young people who are too old for foster care, yet
too young to apply for social services are often
forced into homelessness. Homeless youths can
face devastating short and long-term

34% of the total homeless population is

under 24.

Homeless youth benefit from programs

that meet immediate needs first and
then help them address other aspects
of their lives. Programs that minimize
institutional demands and offer a range
of services have had success in helping
homeless youth regain stability
(Robertson, 1996). Educational
outreach programs, assistance in
locating job training and employment,
transitional living programs, and health
care especially designed for and
directed at homeless youth are also
needed. In the long term, homeless
youth would benefit from many of the
same measures that are needed to
fight poverty and homelessness in the
adult population, including the provision
of affordable housing and employment
that pays a living wage. In addition to
these basic supports, the child welfare
system must make every effort to
prevent children from ending up on the

children and youths educational

opportunities. Residency requirements,
guardianship requirements, delays in
transfer of school records, lack of
transportation, and lack of
immunization records often prevent
homeless children from enrolling in
school. Homeless children and youth
who are able to enroll in school still
face barriers to regular attendance:
while 87% of homeless youth are
enrolled in school, only 77% attend
school regularly. According to recent
federal data, during the 2007-2008
school year 794,617 homeless children
and youth were enrolled in public
schools. This number, however, is an
underestimate, as not all school
districts report data to the U.S.
Department of Education, and because
the data collected represents only
those children identified and enrolled
in school. Furthermore, the number
does not include all preschool-age
children, or any infants and toddlers.

Homelessness has a devastating impact







Some homeless children and youth are

with their families. In 2014, however,

45,205 were unaccompanied.
About 80% of homeless youth (aged 1221) use drugs or alcohol as a means to
self-medicate to deal with the traumatic
experiences and abuse they face.
The Department of Justice estimates
that every year, over 1.7 million teens
experience homelessness in the US.
According to estimates by the Urban
Institute, nearly 1 in 5 youths under the age of 18 will run away at least once.
Approximately 40% of homeless teens identify as LGBT.
Family rejection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was the most frequently cited factor contributing
to LGBT homelessness (46%).
Over 50% of young people in shelters and on the streets report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were
leaving and didn't care.
A 2002 report on sexual abuse among adolescent runaways, prepared for the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, found that 21-40% of homeless youth had been sexually abused compared to 1-3% of the general youth
Of youth who run away, 41% have been abandoned by their parents for at least 24 hours and 43% have been beaten by a

10. HIV rates for homeless people are 3 to 9 times higher than reported rates for comparative samples in the US. A study
across four cities found a prevalence of 2.3% for homeless youth under 25.