Why Are Youth Homeless in the U.S.?
Many youth between the ages of 14 and 24 experience homelessness in America each year. The term “unaccompanied youth” is often used to describe homeless youth because they are homeless without a parent or guardian.
Pregnant and parenting youth; youth with special needs or disabilities; and youth of color—particularly Black Americans and Native Americans—are more likely to become homeless. Forty-seven percent of homeless youth were also homeless as children.
Most often, youth become homeless because of abuse, neglect, or other trauma at home:
- Physical and sexual abuse can lead youth to run away. Estimates vary, but roughly 40-60% experience physical abuse and 20-40% are sexually abused.
- Parental substance use can cause youth to run away from home.
- Conflicts with families over LGBTQ identities are another reason youth are kicked-out of or run away from home. Over 20% of unaccompanied homeless youth identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning (LGBTQ).
Once homeless, young people are at risk for labor and sex trafficking, assault, and other forms of victimization. They have an 87% likelihood of dropping out of school. Young people without high school diplomas or GEDs are 4.5 times more likely to experience homelessness.