This resource provides information about unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness.
Unaccompanied Youth Experiencing Homelessness
On a given night in January 2010i:
- Unaccompanied youth represented 1.1% of the sheltered adult population
Other estimates of the prevalence of youth homelessness:
- A 1998 national study of the prevalence of homelessness among youths living in households was 7.6%ii.
- In 2007, researchers estimated that this translates to a national prevalence of 1.6 million youth experiencing homelessness each yeariii.
- 1996 NSHAPC data found that 12% of all homeless clients were youth ages 17-24.
Age, Gender & Race/Ethnicity
- The majority of homeless youth are ages 13 or olderiv.
- Multiple studies show that homelessness among youth is more common among males, particularly among street-involved youth. Some samples of youth in shelters show more females than malesv. However, depending on the sample, gender distribution varies.
- Studies show differing compositions of race/ethnicity among homeless youth. Some show no difference among homeless youth and other youth in their surrounding areas; other found disproportionate representation among racial/ethnic minority youth who become homelessvi.
Serious Mental Illness, Traumatic Stress, & Substance Use
Among homeless youth, when compared to housed peers or the general adolescent populationvii:
- Rates of mood disorders, suicide attempts, conduct disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder are higher.
- Risk for mental health problems is higher among street-involved homeless youth than youth who are homeless but not living on the streets.
- Risk of alcohol or drug abuse or dependence is higher.
Youth who are homeless:
- Are more likely to have histories of physical or sexual abuseviii ix x.
- Often experience trauma prior to becoming homeless and are at increased risk of trauma after they become homelessxi.
Research on rates of post-traumatic stress among homeless youth is minimal, but a 1989 study in Hollywood, CA found that rates were up to three times higher than their housed peersxii.
Youth who are LGBTQI2-S1 and Homeless
In 2007, the National Alliance to End Homelessness analyzed 17 research studies to estimate that 20% of youth who are homeless identify as LGBTQ2 xiii. Other prevalence estimates range from 6% to 35% of youth who are homelessxiv.
- These youth often leave home because of family rejection or conflictxv xvi
- Youth who are LGBTQI2-S and homeless are at high risk for substance use, mental health issues, self-harming behavior, and sexually transmitted diseasesxvii
- Youth who are LGBTQ experience sexual victimization before becoming homeless at twice the rate of their heterosexual peersxviii
- LGBTQ youth who are homeless are more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual peers who are homelessxix
- Compared to heterosexual homeless youth, LGB homeless youth experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) more often (47% compared to 33%)
- Lesbian youth who are homeless have particularly high rates of PTSD (59%)xx
- LGBT homeless youth are more likely than heterosexual homeless youth to report experiencing neglect, physical victimization, sexual victimization by a caretaker, and sexual victimization on the streetxxi
- Research indicates that LGBT youth who are homeless will experience 7.4 more acts of violence than their heterosexual peersxxii
Foster Care Involvement
- Research on a sample of 1087 interviews with alumni of foster care found that 22% experienced homelessness at some point in the year following discharge from the system. 42% experienced homelessness for one or more nights at some point in their lives following foster carexxv.
- Research on a sample of 603 foster youth showed that 13.8% experienced homelessness at some point after leaving foster carexxvi.
According to data from the 1996 NSHAPC study, 27% of all homeless clients reported living in foster care, a group home, or other institutional settingxxvii.
View the HRC's additional factsheets:
- Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
- Individuals Experiencing Chronic/Long-Term Homelessness
- Individuals Experiencing Short-Term Homelessness
- Families Experiencing Homelessness
- Unaccompanied Youth Experiencing Homelessness
- Elders/Older Adults Experiencing Homelessness
- Veterans Experiencing Homelessness
- Incarcerated People and Homelessness