Report Examines Youth Homelessness, Provides Recommendations

The True Colors Fund, in partnership with the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, published the State Index on Youth Homelessness 2018. The report estimates that, nationwide, 4.2 million youth and young adults under the age of 25 experience homelessness each year. The report ranks each state on its laws, policies, systems, and environment for addressing youth homelessness; identifies notable practices; and provides recommendations for each state. No state in the country currently addresses youth homelessness fully, according to the report.

Certain groups are overrepresented among youth who experience homelessness. LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness when compared with their heterosexual and cisgender peers. African American youth are 83% more likely to experience homelessness. African American young men who identify as LGBTQ endure the highest rates of homelessness, with one in four reporting homelessness in the past year (not including those who only reported couch-surfing). LGBTQ youth of color are especially vulnerable to discrimination and institutional racism in education, housing, and employment, and can encounter barriers when they attempt to access social services and support programs.

The State Index on Youth Homelessness scores each state on its laws, policies, systems and environment related to youth homelessness. The maximum possible score is 100. The states scoring the best were Washington (65 out of 100), Massachusetts (63), and California (61). The states with the lowest scores were Alabama (27), South Carolina (27), and Idaho (30). Only 17 states received a score greater than 50. These results demonstrate that all states need to make significant improvements to their laws, policies, and systems for addressing youth homelessness.

The report provides a broad range of recommendations for states. These recommendations include, but are not limited to, enacting state laws and policies that ensure a comprehensive set of supports and services like drop-in centers, street outreach, community programs, short-term assistance, and other housing solutions for youth experiencing homelessness (including adequate funding).  They also include creating a state entity for designing, implementing, and evaluating youth homelessness programs; providing protections against discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, and gender identity for youth seeking services; banning conversion therapy and other ineffective services for LGBTQ youth; and preventing or limiting contact with the criminal or juvenile justice system for youth experiencing homelessness and connecting them to critical services.

For a full description of the index and recommendations for each state, see The State Index on Youth Homelessness 2018 at: