Homelessness among youth is a complex social problem with various underlying economic and social factors such as poverty, family conflict and rejection, sexual abuse, child welfare system involvement, juvenile justice system involvement, extreme disconnection, a lack of affordable housing, and lack of living wage employment options for youth. 

Roughly 50% of youth experiencing homelessness sleep outside, in a car, or someplace not meant for human habitation. Other forms of homelessness that youth experience includes staying temporarily with others (commonly called couch surfing ) or staying in a motel. 

Youth homelessness is distinct from adult homelessness, both in terms of its causes and consequences. Unfortunately, many youths become homeless suddenly. Recognizing that each young person’s homelessness experience has many causes is a critical starting point to achieve sharp reductions in the levels of youth homelessness in America.

Ending homelessness for children, teens, and young adults is challenging. The support systems designed to protect these under-resourced youth are inadequate because they are generally not working together and make it difficult for youth to access their help. In addition, the siloed nature of support and the lack of a single federal definition of homelessness means youth often slip through the cracks. 

NN4Y partners with youth who have experienced homelessness and homeless youth providers to improve and align policies to prevent and end youth homelessness at the federal level. We also support communities to address the root causes of homelessness among young people by advancing innovative, long-term solutions to address the system’s challenges and weaknesses.  

We will only end youth homelessness in America if we focus on preventing and ending all forms of homelessness that youth experience. The pervasiveness of youth homelessness can seem daunting to tackle, but we can do this together! Learn more about how you can get involved.

Serving Young People Prevents Chronic Adult Homelessness

Research from cities has shown that a high proportion of their chronically homeless adult population first experienced homelessness as a young person under 25. For example, the City of Seattle found 43% of their unsheltered homeless population first experienced homelessness as a minor (18%) or as a young adult between the ages of 18 and 24 (25%). Therefore, we will not effectively address homelessness in America unless we boldly focus resources and investments on young people and intervening early.