• There are approximately 1.7 million homeless teens in the U.S.
  • 39 percent of the homeless population is young people under 18.
  • About 75 percent of homeless teens use drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate to deal with the traumatic experiences and abuse they face.
  • 5,000 young people die every year because of assault, illness, or suicide while on the street.
  • A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found that 46 percent of homeless youth left their home because of physical abuse. 17 percent left because of sexual abuse.
  • Approximately 40 percent of homeless teens identify as LGBT.
  • Over 50 percent of young people in shelters and on the streets report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn’t care.
  • The average age a teen becomes homeless is 14.7 years.
  • 1 in 7 young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away.
  • Teens age 12 to 17 are more likely to become homeless than adults.
  • HIV rates for homeless young people are 2 to 10 times higher than reported rates for other samples of adolescents in the U.S.


Homeless youth face many challenges on the streets. Few homeless youth are housed in emergency shelters as a result of lack of shelter beds for youth, shelter admission policies, and a preference for greater autonomy (Robertson, 1996). Because of their age, homeless youth have few legal means by which they can earn enough money to meet basic needs. Many homeless adolescents find that exchanging sex for food, clothing, and shelter is their only chance of survival on the streets. In turn, homeless youth are at a greater risk of contracting AIDS or HIV-related illnesses. Estimates for percentages of homeless youth infected with HIV are generally around 5%, but one study in San Francisco found that 17% of homeless youths were infected (Health Resources and Services Administration 2001). It has been suggested that the rate of HIV prevalence for homeless youth may be as much as 2 to 10 times higher than the rates reported for other samples of adolescents in the United States (National Network for Youth, 1998).

Homeless adolescents often suffer from severe anxiety and depression, poor health and nutrition, and low self-esteem. In one study, the rates of major depression, conduct disorder, and post-traumatic stress syndrome were found to be 3 times as high among runaway youth as among youth who have not run away (Robertson, 1989).

Homeless youth face difficulties attending school because of legal guardianship requirements, residency requirements, improper records, and lack of transportation. As a result, homeless youth face severe challenges in obtaining an education and supporting themselves emotionally and financially.

Source: National Coalition for The Homeless