More than half of homeless youth become homeless for the first time because they are asked to leave home by a parent or caregiver, and more than half say they have tried to stay at a shelter but it was full. Those findings resulted from a study released today by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF).
The first-of-its-kind study, funded by ACF’s Family & Youth Services Bureau and conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, focused on 873 youth ages 14 to 21 in 11 cities. Respondents included street youth receiving services from ACF’s Street Outreach Program grantees and street youth who were not currently using services from SOP grantees. The study found the following:
- The average youth spent nearly two years living on the streets.
- More than 60 percent were raped, beaten up, robbed, or otherwise assaulted.
- Nearly 30 percent of participants identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and nearly 7 percent identified as transgender.
- About half of youth had been in foster care and youth with a foster care history had been homeless for much longer (27.5 months on average) compared to youth who had never been in foster care (19.3 months, on average).
More than half of respondents also needed a safe place to stay, help with education, access to laundry facilities, a place to study, rest, or spend time during the day, and a phone.
The Street Outreach Program provides services to runaway and homeless youth on the streets or in areas with increased risk of abuse and sexual exploitation. The program aims to help young people get off the streets and promotes efforts by its grantees to build relationships between street outreach workers and homeless street youth. Grantees also provide support services to help move youth into shelters or stable housing, and prepare them for independence. Homeless youth also use Street Outreach-supported drop-in centers to shower, eat a hot meal or obtain food coupons, receive hygiene kits, and obtain referrals for medical, dental, mental health, or social services.
To coincide with the release of the Street Outreach Report, ACF is also releasing a new public service announcement campaign targeting runaway and homeless youth. The new television PSAs feature homeless youth sharing their personal stories and is aimed at connecting runaway and homeless youth with services and resources.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regularly estimates the number of people experiencing homelessness. While this exercise does not include a count of young people who are doubled up or temporarily living with others, it identified 45,205 unaccompanied children and youth experiencing homelessness in the United States on a single night in January 2014.
- On average, youth became homeless for the first time at age 15.
- The study was designed to increase our understanding of the services young people need when they are on the streets.
- The majority of participants needed help with job training or finding a job, transportation, and clothing.
“An important step toward ending youth homelessness is getting better data and getting a better understanding about why young people become homeless, what happens to them when they are homeless, and what services they need.”— ACF Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg.
Administration for Children & Families
Office of Communications
330 C Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Phone: (202) 401-9215
Fax: (202) 205-9688