The National Network for Youth relies on eight Guiding Principles to support our mission, vision and core purpose. Moving top to bottom, the framework transitions from general perspectives of the youth homelessness movement to specific values of the National Network.

In our experience, all eight values are paramount to an effective systems response to youth homelessness. Therefore, we ask organizations to uphold the entire framework as a condition of membership.


Valuing Youth

Youth comprise an exceptional segment of society and the world. Their experience is defined by personal growth, including an array of physical, psychological and emotional developments. Throughout this process, young people require special care and consideration from adults. Meanwhile, they deserve every opportunity to pursue dreams for the future. We have a responsibility to celebrate, elevate and protect youth while easing their transition to adulthood.

Empowering Youth

With age and experience, youth come ever closer to understanding themselves, others and the world at large. Inspired by imagination, observation and personal interest, this process yields powerful and promising ideas. Nevertheless, young people are categorically excluded from public discourse at the local, state and federal levels of government. In response, we encourage them to become more involved in policies and programs that directly affect their generation. Likewise, we elevate their potential in the eyes of policymakers and prepare youth to use healthy and positive judgement.

Supporting Diversity

All lives are sacred, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or family background. Accordingly, youth experiencing homelessness are entitled to the same fundamental rights and protections as any other person. We celebrate the diversity of American society, and strive to change any discriminatory policies or programs within our field.

Sharing Resources

Quality youth services are the product of dynamic collaboration and mutual support among stakeholders. We facilitate open communication, diverse representation, equal opportunity, reciprocity and leadership within our network. Moreover, we pledge to share information with and between members, partners, government officials and young leaders to strengthen the youth homelessness movement.

Advocating for Effective Policies

The youth homelessness movement is inspired by providers, advocates and young leaders, but still depends on government policies and funding. Compared to local experts and young people, policymakers are often unfamiliar with the experience of youth homelessness. In order to bridge this consequential gap, we encourage our partners to engage in the advocacy campaigns we initiate. With our support, they work to educate policymakers about the devastating impact of youth homelessness. The recommendations we set forth to policymakers are informed by local expertise, scientific data and youth experience. Successful advocacy efforts have proven that our strategy is an effective means to promote effective youth homelessness policy solutions.

Strengthening Families

Families are the foundation of American society, local communities and healthy youth development. Above all else, we expect adults to protect, nurture and educate all children within the family. We strive to elevate these expectations and promote open, affirming and supportive households throughout the nation. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that abuse, neglect and other forms of family dysfunction may force youth to run away or become ejected from home. Accordingly, we strive to strengthen families as a measure to prevent youth homelessness before it occurs. For those youth who do experience homelessness, the prospect of family reunification should be considered and discussed on a case-by-case basis. This course of action is generally advisable so long as it is safe, situationally appropriate and voluntary. Additionally, we believe that family-focused services and interventions should include whomever youth consider to be family.

Youth / Adult Partnerships

In the effort to prevent and end youth homelessness, few tools are as versatile or effective as firsthand expertise. Throughout the country, currently and formerly homeless youth are ready and willing to support our movement. Experts, advocates and other adults should consider working with these individuals to improve both policy and practice. Today, many providers rely on youth advisory boards to critique and ultimately improve their programs and operations. Other groups – including the NN4Y Youth Advisory Council – review and revise policy recommendations to incorporate real world experience. In either case, successful partnerships between youth and adults are predicated on respect, flexibility and common goals.

Elevating Community-Based Solutions

Time and time again, local leaders and advocates have proven exceptionally knowledgeable about the unique needs of youth in their own communities. Accordingly, these individuals are in one of the best positions to identify service gaps and devise age-appropriate solutions. We routinely encourage local experts to report problems as they arise, and use this information to educate and engage policymakers. In turn, we elevate successful outcomes and best practices reported across the country. Upon sharing these findings, other communities review and adapt proven strategies to satisfy their own needs.