2024 marks the 50th anniversary of both the National Network for Youth (NN4Y) and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). We are proud to commemorate these milestones together, because our histories are intertwined. NN4Y has been at the forefront of every expansion and improvement to the RHYA over the decades.

As we celebrate 50 years of impact, we renew our commitment to prevent and end youth, young adult, and young family homelessness in America.

Creating the Network

Established in 1974, NN4Y was founded by leaders of community-based youth service providers committed to shaping public policy and community practices to keep youth in crisis out of juvenile detention. Instead, these founding organizations came together to advocate for federal policies to ensure youth receive comprehensive and voluntary community-based support instead of becoming ensnared in a harmful system. Our founders considered factors such as systemic racism, homophobia, transphobia, socioeconomic status, and youth who fled abuse or severely dysfunctional families or youth with instability in their homes forced onto the streets before they were adults.

These community-based organizations, such as Yellow Brick Road, Second Mile House, The Sanctuary, The Link, Family Connection, Briarpatch, Odyssey House, and The Greenhouse, developed separately and operated independently before joining forces to establish NN4Y

Their collective goal was to challenge cruel federal and state laws, share knowledge, and support each other as they encountered significant opposition and little support at the local level as they were working to build support services for youth outside of systems that often caused harm. Despite pushing against societal norms and facing opposition from law enforcement, these organizations persevered and still operate today.

Partnering with Youth

Soon after its founding, NN4Y began investing in the leadership of young people who experienced homelessness, accessed youth-serving systems, and are survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. NN4Y developed formal structures to foster true partnerships with these young leaders, including participating in the annual symposium in Washington DC. Additionally, some of these young individuals became members of the NN4Y policy council to ensure that young people with lived expertise were part of every component of NN4Y’s federal policy advocacy from developing recommendations and advocation for their implementation.

Looking Ahead

We take pride in the lessons learned from our journey. Understanding our history inspires us to continue to fight against all forms of oppression and systematic racism in our work to prevent and end youth homelessness in America.