Unaccompanied Youth

Unaccompanied homeless youth are young people experiencing homelessness who are not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness each year. The prevalence of youth homelessness is similar in rural, suburban and urban areas.

Homelessness is associated with an 87% likelihood of dropping out of school. At the same time, the highest risk factor for youth homelessness is the lack of a high school diploma or GED. Youth without those basic education credentials are 4.5 times more likely to experience homelessness.

Homelessness among unaccompanied youth is most commonly caused by severe family dysfunction, and exacerbated by poverty.  Family dysfunction includes abuse, conflict, and substance abuse.  Research shows that 20-40% of unaccompanied homeless youth were sexually abused in their homes, while 40-60% were abused physically. Family conflict over sexual orientation and gender identity plays a role in some youth’s homelessness, as an estimated one-third of unaccompanied homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. Research also has found a clear link between parental substance abuse and youth running away from home. Family homelessness also contributes to youth homelessness: a recent study of homeless and formerly homeless youth found that 47% experienced homelessness both with their family, and on their own.

Unaccompanied youth are at a much higher risk for labor and sex trafficking, assault and other forms of victimization than their housed peers. Most unaccompanied youth are unable to access safe housing or shelter, for a combination of reasons, including: being too young to consent for services without a parent; fear of child welfare involvement; and the lack of services overall: more than half of those who seek shelter cannot access it because shelters are full. The risks for unaccompanied youth also extend to many infants and toddlers, as research indicates that 44% percent of young women experiencing homelessness, ages 18 to 25, are pregnant or parenting. In fact, unmarried parenting youth have a 200% higher risk of homelessness than youth without children.  Providing appropriate services to keep unaccompanied youth safe and secure permanent housing for them requires inter-agency collaboration and strategies that recognize the unique developmental needs and strengths of young people.


Economic Stimulus Payments: How to Help Homeless Youth Access Economic Stimulus Payments
Cash going directly to youth experiencing homelessness has been shown to significantly help these youth stabilize and exit homelessness. Economic Stimulus Payments are one way to get cash directly to young people who need it the most. We know that young people and those helping them access these funds have encountered multiple barriers. This tip sheet is the best advice we have received.

Fact Sheet on Stimulus Payments and Homeless Youth
This one-page fact sheet details key information and important considerations about the stimulus payments and homeless youth. The fact sheet is the result of a collaboration among SchoolHouse Connection, the National Network for Youth, and our pro bono partner, Baker McKenzie.

Memo from USDA
This memo is on the rights of unaccompanied homeless youth to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America
This the first in a series of Research-to-Impact briefs by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago on understanding and addressing youth homelessness.

Alone Without A Home
This is a state-by-state guide to laws affecting unaccompanied youth.

The National Network for Youth is a policy advocacy organization dedicated to the prevention and eradication of youth homelessness in America. This is a state-by-state look at what is required for obtaining not only IDs, but also proof of Social Security numbers, and birth certificates.

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice is leading “Collaborating for Change: Addressing Youth Homelessness and Juvenile Justice,” a national campaign to decrease the overlap between youth homelessness and juvenile justice involvement.  In collaboration with project partners the National Network for Youth and the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, the project will generate policy and practice recommendations, training and technical assistance resources, and avenues for greater collaboration across systems.

National Runaway Safeline provides support to youth who have run away from home, as well as their parents and guardians.

State Laws on Minor Consent for Housing and Related Services
Several state legislatures have recognized that unaccompanied homeless youth under age 18 need legal rights to access safe housing, shelter and other basic services. This document summarizes state laws on minor consent to housing and supportive services.

State Laws to Increase High School Graduation for Students Experiencing Homelessness
The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) places great emphasis on high school graduation for students experiencing homelessness. This document summarizes state laws that complement these federal requirements. 

State Laws Supporting College Students Experiencing Homelessness
State legislatures have been actively supporting college students experiencing homelessness over the past few years. This document provides a summary of existing state laws. Please contact Patricia Julianelle to share information about other state laws assisting college students experiencing homelessness.

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