Vulnerability & Prevention: Key Takeaways from Three Homelessness Studies

Two studies demonstrate the vulnerability of children and youth who experience homelessness, regardless of where they sleep, while a third study underscores the importance of addressing education and adverse childhood experiences in order to prevent youth homelessness.

Who Counts? Educational Disadvantage among Children Identified as Homeless and Implications for the Systems That Serve Them.

Warren Lowell and Maria Hanratty. Social Service Review, Volume 96, Number 4, December 2022.

There is a common misconception that families and youth who meet the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) definition of homelessness — in particular those who stay with others temporarily or in motels — are less vulnerable than those who meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) definition of homelessness (sheltered and unsheltered). In this study, researchers leveraged a data link between public schools and homeless management information systems in Minnesota to compare the educational risks faced by children identified as homeless under the U.S. Department of Education (ED) definition of homelessness, and the HUD definition. They found that students identified under the ED definition exhibit levels of chronic absenteeism and school mobility that are comparable with,or higher than, their HUD-homeless peers. These results challenge the notion that families and youth who are staying with others or in motels face lower educational risks, and are consistent with the results of other studies of students experiencing homelessness in CaliforniaLouisiana, and Washington state.

Adolescent homelessness: Evaluating victimization risk based on LGBT identity and sleeping location.

Claire A. Flatley, Danielle R. Hatchimonji, Dan Treglia, J. J. Cutuli. Journal of Adolescence. Volume 94, Issue 8, December 2022.

Using the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, researchers found that high school students who reported homelessness had 208% higher odds of sexual victimization and 347% higher odds of physical victimization. LGBT identity, separately, also was related to increased risk for physical and sexual victimization. Students who reported having no usual place to stay had the highest odds of experiencing sexual or physical victimization (1,047% increased odds of experiencing sexual victimization and 1,100% increased odds of physical victimization). However, each homeless sleeping location was associated with increased odds of experiencing both sexual and physical victimization compared to sleeping at a parent or guardian’s home, underscoring the vulnerability of all students who experience homelessness, regardless of where they sleep.

Late Adolescent Predictors of Homelessness and Food Insecurity During Emerging Adulthood.

Tucker JS, Davis JP, Perez LG, Klein DJ, D’Amico EJ. Journal of Adolescent Health. May 2022.

This study identifies factors during adolescence that predict homelessness five years later. The study found that adverse childhood experiences and “academic orientation” (the highest level of school the youth planned to finish, or academic performance) were the only significant predictors of both homelessness and food insecurity, and were relevant across all racial/ethnic groups. This study builds on previous studies that demonstrate the high rates of adverse childhood experiences among youth experiencing homelessness, as well as the role of educational deficits as a predictor of homelessness.