On November 16th, the first brief from Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America, an initiative of Chapin Hall from the University of Chicago, was released.
Quick notes from Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America:
- 1 in 10 young adults age 18-25 experience homelessness in a year, half of them involve couch surfing only. This means that 3.5 million youth experience homelessness every year.
- 1 in 30 minors age 13-17 experience homelessness in a year. One quarter of them experience homelessness in the form of couch-surfing.
- About half of the youth who experienced homelessness over a year were experiencing it for the first time.
- Some youth are more at-risk for homelessness than others: youth who didn’t graduate high school were 346% more likely to be homeless, LGBT youth are 120% more at risk, Hispanic, non-white youth are at 33% higher risk and black or African American youth have a 83% higher risk, youth reporting annual household income of less than $24,000 had a 162% higher risk of homelessness, and unmarried parenting youth had a 200% higher risk.
The national survey interviewed 26,161 people and sought to measure youth homelessness in America by capturing homelessness broadly, targeting unsafe sleeping situations like couch-surfing and running away in addition to staying in a homeless shelter or sleeping on the streets. Due to this approach, the study aims to give a more accurate depiction of homelessness in America than a traditional point-in-time study, or a study that counts the number of homeless people on any given night.
According to the study, “A sizable percentage of American youth continues to experience homelessness. The problem is solvable, but much remains to be done.”
The study found an alarmingly high rate of youth who have experienced homelessness — a total of 4.2 million young people (age 25 and younger) experience homelessness over a 12 month period. 3.5 million of these young people are 18-25 and the rest are 13-17. 1 in 10 young adults aged 18-25 experience homelessness every year, and about half of them experience homelessness in the form of couch surfing.
Certain factors make young people much more susceptible to homelessness. LGBT youth are 120% more at risk for homelessness, Hispanic and non-white youth are at 33% higher risk, and black or African-American youth are at a 83% higher risk of becoming homeless. Unmarried parenting youth had a 200% higher risk.
“While the deprivation of housing stability was the common thread in Voices of Youth count research, the stories of youth homelessness–and the opportunities for intervention–rarely centered on housing alone. Every experience, every youth, was unique,” Chapin Hall explains. Young people are thrust into homelessness for a variety of reasons, and their experiences differ, too. Oftentimes young people are especially hard to keep track of because they couch surf or sleep in their cars as their first resort. Most often they turn from friends to shelters or the streets.
Second Story pays special attention to young mothers, 200% more at risk for homelessness, through Second Story for Young Mothers and targets at-risk youth through our teen shelter and community-based programs, seeking to provide resources and counseling to youth who are more susceptible to homelessness.
The Voices of Youth study is heartbreaking and astounding, but most of all urgent: more must be done for youth experiencing homelessness in the United States.