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14th November
written by Andre Wade

November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month and in recognition of this special time and unique problem, we thought we’d read you in on what’s known so far.

  • 1.6 million youth under the age of 18 runaway or are thrown away each year.  An estimated 1.3 million of those youth return home within one week.  For the remaining, more intensive supports and longer term housing options are needed.
  • The demographics of runaway and homeless youth tend to be representative of the community they live in, however, there is some evidence that African-American youth are over-represented in the runaway population.
  • Additionally, it has been estimated that, in some cities, up to 40 percent of the homeless youth population identify as LGBTQ.

Like the population, the causes of youth homelessness are also varied. Often, however they include family conflict that can involve physical and sexual abuse by a parent or guardian, financial inability to care for a youth, parental drug and alcohol abuse, or a rejection due to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Luckily, youth homelessness – like all homelessness – is a problem that can be solved.

Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness sets out a goal to end youth homelessness by the year 2020; if we’re going to do that, we’re going to have to start working together right now. The road ahead is long and windy but everyday, collectively, we move the needle with new research, new champions in Congress, and hardworking advocates and providers ensuring that runaway and homeless youth are given opportunities to be connected to caring adults, resources and housing.

In solidarity with National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, the Alliance will blog about the scope of youth homelessness, strategies to combat the problem, federal policies, and recommended improvements as well as other information and anecdotes to help to raise awareness of ways to end homelessness for this vulnerable population.


  1. 14/11/2011

    The 1.6 million figure is very old. If it’s the best we’ve got, then I’d say we’ve no idea how many homeless youth there are. This is surely a threshold issue for policymakers and advocates. Perhaps a partial solution would be to add unaccompanied youth to point-in-time counts. What do you think?

  2. 14/11/2011

    Just also wanted to note that in a recent study by the National Runaway Switchboard they found that African American youth were slightly *less* likely to run away from home (7.5%) compared to their non-African American peers (8.2%).

  3. Catherine Hinrichsen

    Could you please ID the people in the photo? Thanks.

  4. rsh

    Thank You from Austin, Texas.

    This week both City Council and Travis County proclaim this week Hunger and Homeless Awareness week. ECHO started the campaign. I have been a member before it was started and a member of Please keep up the great work. As an advocate, I am grateful to all those who volunteer there time for all the entities, non-profits, community, faith-base, business, universities, government, volunteers, health care, veterans service and of course those who are consumers who are our neighbors and friends. As Richard Troxell said at the Sunrise Memorial for those who died homeless and in poverty in Travis County alone, one is too many. It was well over a hundred, I will not say the amount. The voters passed a bill that will allow widows of Veterans who are 100 percent disable to continue to not have to pay property tax. I am glad I was a part of that bill, so that the woman who I took to the Chair of Defense in Austin, will not have to sell her home and be throw out on the streets of Austin, TX,
    Have a great day. It is still to hot here. In the 80′s.
    Thank You

  5. Andre Wade

    Yes, to your point, which is a great one, the number is old, and out dated, however it is the best comprehensive estimate we have to date. The number, as you know, comes from the National Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway (NISMART) children that was conducted in 1999 and reported out in 2002. A new survey will be underway in 2012, so we may have new estimates, from this study around 2015. A long ways away.

    Congress mandated that a Prevalence and Incidence study of runaway and homeless youth be conducted by the Dept. of Health and Human Services – Family and Youth Services Bureau; however, Congress has not funded the study, therefore, FYSB has not taken any action. So, the opportunity to get better estimates isn’t looking good.

    We are encouraging HUD and communities to include youth in PIT counts. The difficulty with it thus far is that children are capture as under 18 years of age and adults are captures as 18 and over. The data set is 18-30 (or maybe 35) so it’s difficult to extrapolate the 18-24 numbers we might be interested in the way the survey and reporting out is done thus far. However, HUD is making some moves by defining unaccompanied youth as under 25 yo; therefore an opportunity to better capture and report out on youth numbers via the point-in-time counts should be on its way.