Youth Homelessness Gets a New Federal Research Agenda

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, or USICH, in October released the first ever national research agenda for advancing our understanding of homelessness. The agenda highlights areas, including youth homelessness, where more knowledge is needed to inform policy and enhance practices in the field that can improve the long-term wellbeing of homeless populations.

“We’re very excited about the new research agenda,” says Resa Matthew, who directs the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Program. “The more we learn about why youth are homeless, the better able we will be to provide them with the appropriate strategies and interventions to reduce the trauma they often cope with and get them back on track to healthy, productive adult lives.”

To draft the agenda, USICH reviewed more than 200 studies conducted over the past two decades, as well as research currently under way. The review identified gaps in our knowledge of what causes homelessness for particular groups of people, including youth, and of how we can best address and prevent it.

The overall agenda addresses eight domains: 

  • Affordable and supportive housing
  • Cost offsets/Cost-effectiveness
  • Homeless crisis response 
  • Homeless prevalence and risk and protective factors
  • Improving health, well-being, and stability
  • Justice linkages
  • Accessing mainstream benefits 
  • Pathways to employment

The youth research agenda, in particular, calls for studies of homeless youth prevalence, needs and characteristics, research on students experiencing homelessness, and analyses of the relationship between the foster care and juvenile justice systems and homelessness.

Read “National Research Agenda: Priorities for Advancing Our Understanding of Homelessness.”