Summary blurb: The first step to ending youth homelessness is to understand what it is, and why it happens. Though numbers often don’t tell the whole story, they’re an important place to begin. For this first day of our Learning Sessions, we’ll review some of the data that we have available on youth homelessness.

General Statistics

  • According to an ACF/FYSB Street Outreach Program Study one of the top three reasons reported for youth becoming homeless was due to physical abuse (23.8%).1
  • In 2018 over 23,500 runaways were reported to NCMEC and one in seven were likely victim of child sex trafficking.2
  • Incarceration disproportionately affects homeless youth: 46% of homeless youth have been in detention or incarcerated versus 15% of the general population.3
  • Within the first two to four years of leaving the system, more than 25% of former foster children become homeless.4
  • According to the Voices of Youth Count initiative from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, vulnerable populations experience a greater risk for homelessness.
    • LGBTQ youth had a 120% higher risk of experiencing homelessness.
    • Black youth had an 83% higher risk.
    • Hispanic, non-White youth, had a 33% increased risk.
  • Experiencing homelessness increases a young person’s likelihood of dropping out of school by almost 87%.5

What Causes Youth Homelessness?

This is a really complicated question. There are a huge number of possible causes, and it can be difficult to narrow down exact causes. We do know that certain groups are more vulnerable, including those identifying as LGBTQ, young people who are pregnant or parenting, those who experienced childhood abuse, and more. This issue brief from the Family and Youth Services Bureau goes into more detail about possible causes for homelessness among young people.

At the National Runaway Safeline, we have identified the top reasons that youth reach out to us for help. These include:

  • family dynamics (such as divorce, blended/extended family issues, custody conflicts, death of a family member, etc.)
  • abuse & neglect (any form of abuse including emotional, physical, or sexual)
  • mental health (depression, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, etc.)
  • peer issues (bullying, isolation, fights with friends, etc.)

You can learn more about NRS-specific data by viewing our 2019 Crisis Services Snapshot here.


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Further Reading:

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  1. Whitbeck, L., Lazoritz, M. W., Crawford, D., & Hautala, D. (2016). Administration for children and families: Family and youth services bureau street outreach program. Retrieved from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/fysb/data_collection_study_final_report_street_outreach_program.pdf
  2. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (n.d). Key facts. Retrieved from http://www.missingkids.com/footer/media/keyfacts
  3. Morton, M. H., Dworsky, A., & Samuels, G. M. (2017). Missed opportunities: Youth homelessness in America. National estimates. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Retrieved from http://voicesofyouthcount.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/ChapinHall_VoYC_NationalReport_Final.pdf
  4. Covenant House (n.d). The issues. Retrieved from https://www.covenanthouse.org/homeless-teen-issues/statistics
  5. SchoolHouse Connection (n.d). Learn: Common questions. Retrieved from: https://www.schoolhouseconnection.org/learn/common-questions/

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