Q: Who are Unaccompanied Homeless Youth?

Individuals, age 14-25, who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime resident, and who are absent from the physical custody of a parent or guardian or other lawful placement; including individuals who:  

  • Are sharing housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, inability or unwillingness of a parent, guardian, or other lawful placement to provide shelter and care, or similar reason;
  •  Are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to loss of housing, economic hardship, inability or unwillingness of a parent, guardian, or other lawful placement to provide shelter and care, or similar reason;
  • Are living in emergency shelter or transitional housing;
  •  Have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, such as a car, or abandoned building; 
  • Will imminently lose their housing, have no subsequent residence identified, and lack the resources or support networks needed to obtain permanent housing (McKinney-Vento Act: 42 U.S.C. 11434a(6) and COMAR 13A.05.09.02(B)(9)).
Q: Why do Youth Become Homeless?
  • Youth homelessness is largely a reflection of family breakdown. Youth become homeless for varying reasons, including:
    • Leaving home because of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse;
    • Being abandoned by their parents or guardians – e.g., because of  non-acceptance of the  youth’s gender identity or sexual orientation; parents’ incarceration, parents’ substance abuse, parents’ mental health problems
    • Being emancipated – e.g., because of teen pregnancy;
    • Exiting Foster Care and/or the Juvenile Correctional System.
Q: How Many Youth Experience Homelessness Across the U.S.?
  • According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness:

    • At any given time there are 50,000 youth sleeping on the streets for six months or more.
    • Each year there are approximately 1.68 million runaway or homeless youth under the age of 18. Roughly 400,000 of these children remain outside their home for over a week, and 125,000 are homeless for over a month.
    •  Approximately 150,000 single young adults ages 18 to 24 are homeless over the course of a year, along with many young women with children.
Q: How Many Youth Experience Homelessness in Maryland?
  • Maryland ranks 18th in the Nation in child homelessness (0-18 years old).
  • In 2010, there were an estimated 12,810 children/youth experiencing homelessness in Maryland, (this number does include the 844 homeless, unaccompanied youth).
  • Of the 131,000 children/youth living in poverty in Maryland, one out of every 10 (10%) are homeless.
  •  In January 2011 the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health documented 640 unaccompanied homeless youth in Baltimore based upon a one day “census.” However, this is certainly an undercount as it is only a reflection of the young people who sought out services at the handful of services providers in the city catering to homeless youth. 

Q: What are the Realities and Outcomes of Experiencing Youth Homelessness?

  • Homelessness is bad for one’s health and well-being.  It’s especially dangerous for young people who do not have familial support.  Unaccompanied homeless youth are at a higher risk:
    • Physical health problems
    • Physical and sexual assault
    •  Severe emotional stress - including anxiety disorders, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicide
    • Substance abuse
    • Survival sex, i.e. prostitution: Data indicates that within 72 hours of hitting the streets, 1 out of every 3 runaways will be forced to engage in survival sex in order to meet their basic needs for food and shelter (National Runaway Switchboard).

Q: What are the Realities for LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness?

  • According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness:
    • LGBTQ youth represent approximately 20% of homeless youth. This is disproportionate to the number of LGBTQ youth (10%) in the general population.
    •  Each year over 300,000 LGBTQ youth experience at least one night of homelessness in America.
    •  Once homeless, LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault and higher incidence of mental health problems and unsafe sexual behaviors than heterosexual homeless youth.
    •  LGB homeless youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide (62 percent) as their heterosexual homeless peers (29 percent).