A public health epidemic: The issue of homeless youth and teens

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, a 2002 study put out by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), “there are an estimated 1,682,900 homeless and runaway youth. This number is equally divided among males and females, and the majority of them are between the ages of 15 and 17 (Molino, 2007).”

The National Coalition for the Homeless also points out the reasons that children and youth become homeless usually fall under three, often related, categories: family problems, economic problems, and residential instability. Youth leave home to escape problems, but they often become exposed to a wide variety of violence, including trauma, abuse, poverty, substance abuse, and increased incidence of contracting illnesses such as HIV. Beyond facing the challenges of finding a safe place to sleep or feed themselves, these youth are also less likely to be able to finish their education and are more likely to suffer from lower self esteem and other mental health issues brought on by the stress of their situation.

In order to bring awareness to this issue, the Safe Start Center would like to address the problem of youth homelessness this week in honor of Homeless Youth Awareness Month. A recent article from the Morinville News highlights the issue and shares the story of a town trying to address the problem of teen homelessness.

Town and high school working to address teen homelessness in Morinville


The article opens with the story of a 16-year-old boy, anonymously named Tyler, who was asked to leave his home just a few months ago and is now living in a friend’s garage. Tyler was having trouble in school and it escalated so far that he and his parents thought it was better for him to leave the house. Having lost his social security card, he can no longer find a job so that he can buy food, he hasn’t been able to attend school, and his housing is constantly in transition. He tries to be upbeat, but says he knows his situation can be better. Tyler is just one example of an ongoing problem not only in the Morinville community but everywhere.

Schools and the community are really beginning to work to discuss the problem of homeless youth, but they are struggling with how to get these teens to identify themselves so that they can help them. They’ve begun outreach through the Morinville Family and Community Support Services with the rest of the community to raise awareness and offer resources and services for parents and youth affected by this problem. They are hoping that an awareness campaign will help draw out youth who need help and also let them know just how large the problem of teen homelessness is.

Another great example of how cities and communities are combating this issue is happening this month in Chicago. The following article highlights a partnership between the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and Apartments.com to launch their own campaign for awareness month, “Raising Awareness. Taking Action: A Campaign to Help End Homelessness.”

Apartments.com will donate $1 for every LIKE on Facebook to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless


This is a fantastic way to help raise funds and awareness about such a widespread problem, because, as the article highlights, Chicago Public Schools report that more than 10,000 students have experienced homelessness in this past school year alone.

The Safe Start Center also has some great resources to help raise awareness about the issue of homelessness and how you can help.

Please check out the following Safe Start Center resources:

Trauma-Informed Care for Children Exposed to Violence

Tips for Domestic Violence and Homeless Shelters


Homeless Shelters, Permanent/ Supportive Housing, and Transitional Housing


Additional Resources:

National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth (a great resource for runaway and homeless youth programs)


National Runaway Switchboard (a national crisis line for runaways, and a place that provides services like free greyhound bus tickets home for youth, and great information for teens, parents, and educators)


National Center for Homeless Education (a great resource for youth like Tyler who are trying to get their education while homeless)



2 Responses

  1. What is the best way to get a teen help when they are being bullies?

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