From AYPF: Understanding the Homeless Youth Population

The average temperature for the contiguous United States during this past winter was 31.3 F. Many of us will remember how difficult the weather made our commute or travel; however, for the homeless and people in need of shelter, the risk of fatal hypothermia is a serious and constant concern.

In addition to having to endure freezing weather, being homeless means hardship in securing safe shelter, healthy food, medical attention, supportive relationships, and overall stability. Imagine a person struggling to combat all the obstacles that accompany homelessness. Now imagine that this individual is a youth.

It is difficult to pinpoint the number of homeless youth in America since many of these young people avoid asking for help. A fear of judgment or a lack of knowledge about their rights and available resources are a few obstacles that keep youth away from the assistance they need. Recent data suggests that about 110,000 youth are living on the streets, in cars, in abandoned buildings, and other public spaces. This number can be broken down into approximately 55,000 homeless teens ages 12 to 17 and another 55,000 homeless youth ages 18 to 25. However, these numbers do not include the homeless youth who are living in shelters, “couch surfing” with friends or family, or other situations where a young person lacks a permanent address. When these criteria are included, researchers have estimated that about 1 million to 1.6 million youth (5 percent to 7.7 percent of all American youth) experience homelessness at some time each year. Who are these youth and what leads them to homelessness?

  • One in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away from home at some point.
  • The average age at which a teen becomes homeless is 14.7 years old, and teens ages 12 to 17 are more likely than adults to become homeless.
  • Over half of the young people on the streets and in shelters reported that their parents told them to leave home or knew that they were leaving and didn’t care.

Health and security issues are many of the challenges that youth face in sustaining their education and jobs. Without a safe, stable place to call home, homeless children and youth often have interrupted and delayed schooling and are twice as likely to repeat a grade, have a learning disability, or to be suspended from school. 

To read the full blog post, visit AYPF’s Forum for Thought.

November is National Homeless Youth Awareness MonthNational Runaway Prevention Month, and this year National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week is from November 15th to 23rd.

Garet Fryar is the Policy Research Assistant at the American Youth Policy Forum.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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