Annual Index Compares States on Youth Homelessness Response

The National Homelessness Law Center and True Colors United recently released the 2020 State Index on Youth Homelessness. Each year, the two organizations collaborate to publish a report on the systems, environment, and laws of all states related to preventing and ending youth homelessness. The report provides an index score for each state based on 61 metrics, as well as recommendations for how each state could better address youth homelessness. While the overall average score has improved since 2019, the authors find that a majority of states are failing youth experiencing homelessness.

The index score takes into consideration an array of factors:

  • Whether the state has comprehensive laws protecting youth experiencing homelessness
  • Whether the state limits or prevents the contact such youth have with criminal and juvenile justice systems
  • Measures related to youth emancipation
  • Plans to meet their educational needs, and access to health care and nutrition assistance.

The index also tracks whether states have formal plans to end youth homelessness, state entities dedicated to the problem, community advisory boards, and specific protections for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.

Each metric is connected to a recommendation. For example, the authors recommend that states create offices equipped to address the problem of youth homelessness (e.g., an Office of Homeless Youth Services or a State Interagency Council on Homelessness), and that they adopt diversionary supports and systems that keep youth out of the juvenile legal system. Throughout the report, the authors provide specific examples of how states are carrying out such recommendations, which could serve as models for other states.

The report can be found at:

An online spreadsheet with further scoring details is available at: