Other Youth Topics

Physical & Reproductive Health

Runaway and homeless youth experience negative physical and reproductive health consequences as a result of their experiences and face a range of barriers in accessing health care. As a result, homeless youth are less likely to have access to medical care.1

Health

  • Homeless youth face higher rates of chronic health problems than their peers, and lack of health care often results in more advanced stages of chronic health problems.2
  • Homeless youth have a higher incidence of trauma-related injuries.3
  • Homeless youth have more nutritional problems, including obesity and food deprivation and starvation due to limited accessibility to food and food with poor nutritional quality.4
  • Similar to homeless adults, many homeless youth experience bad oral health as a result of poor nutrition and a lack of dental services.5
  • Studies of homeless youth in families also primarily reported poorer health than other youth experiencing poverty and the general population.6

Teen Pregnancy

  • Youth may become homeless as a result of family conflict resulting from teen pregnancy.7
  • Teen mothers are at higher risk of becoming homeless than their peers8
  • Compared to women who become mothers at a later age, teen mothers are more likely to be homeless at a younger age.9
  • Homeless teen mothers are often served by interventions targeted at families rather than youth.10
  • Compared to the national average of ten percent, 48 percent of street youth and 33 percent of shelter youth have been pregnant or have impregnated someone.11
  • Homeless pregnant teens lack financial resources and adequate health care resulting in increased risk for low birth weight babies and high infant mortality.12
  • Homeless teenage girls who are away from home for long periods of time, have dropped out of school, have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and/or feel abandoned by their family are at higher risk of getting pregnant.13
  • Research suggests that ten percent of shelter/street youth are currently pregnant.14
  • The higher rates of pregnancy may be the result of sex at an early age, survival sex, and/or inconsistent use of birth control.15
  • Youth with STDs are more likely to be pregnant than those without.16

HIV/STDs

  • Unaccompanied homeless youth have a higher risk of contracting STDs due to risky sexual behaviors, multiple partners, drug use, and inconsistent condom use.17
  • Runaway and homeless youth are six to twelve times more likely to become infected with HIV than other youth.18

Barriers

Runaway and homeless youth face a range of barriers that make access to health care more difficult. Examples of these include

  • lack of transportation;
  • address requirements for paperwork;
  • lengthy processing time for paperwork;
  • lack of financial resources or health insurance;
  • lack awareness about where and how to access health care supports;
  • confidentiality issues;
  • a need for parental consent;
  • distrust of adults and professional agencies;
  • denial on the part of the youth of need for care; and
  • lack of coordinated services and outreach for homeless youth.19

In addition, for many of these young people, health care may not be a priority over day-to-day survival issues.20

Federal programs and shelters can help to provide services to youth or connect them to appropriate services to ensure that they receive the health care supports that they need and prevent chronic health issues. Maternity group homes provide additional services for pregnant and parenting youth to educate them in taking care of a child. Learn more about the different types of federal programs. A range of prevention efforts have also focused on preventing HIV/AIDS and other STDs among homeless and runaway youth. One example is Street Smart which you can learn more about on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Resources

Homelessness Resource Center: Homeless Populations
The Homelessness Resource Center, supported by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is an interactive community of providers, consumers, policymakers, researchers, and public agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. The Center shares state-of-the art knowledge and promising practices to prevent and end homelessness through the following:

  • Training and technical assistance
  • Publications and materials
  • On-line learning opportunities
  • Networking and collaboration

The Center includes a section focused specifically on youth.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center
This is a centralized national resource for Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) grantees funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau at HHS. Training and Technical Assistance Services are directed at assisting RHY grantees to engage in continuous quality improvement of their services and to build their capacity to effectively serve runaway and homeless youth.

Primer on How to Use Medicaid to Assist Persons Who are Homeless to Access Medical, Behavioral Health, and Support Services
This document from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides information to help to connect people who are homeless with critical Medicaid benefits.

Health Care for the Homeless
This site from the Health Resources and Services Administration provides data on the number of patients served and includes information patients by age and gender. Of these grantees, over 102,000 youth under the age of 18 were served according to data updated in 2014.

1 Shinn, et al. , 2008
2 Terry, Bendi, & Patel, 2010
3 Terry, Bendi, & Patel, 2010
4 Terry, Bendi, & Patel, 2010
5 HRSA, 2001
6 Samules, Shimm, & Buckner, 2010
7 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008
8 Greene and Ringwalt, 1998
9 Greene and Ringwalt, 1998
10 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008
11 Greene and Ringwalt, 1998
12 Thompson, Bender, Lewis, & Watkins, 2007; HRSA, 2001
13 Thompson, Bender, Lewis, & Watkins, 2007
14 Greene and Ringwalt, 1998; Solorio et al. 2006
15 Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007
16 Thomson, Bender, Lewis, & Watkins, 2008
17 Noell, Rohde, Ochs, Yovanoff, Alter, Schmid, Bullard, & Black, 2001
18 Rotheram-Borus, Song, Gwadz, Lee, Van Rossem, & Kooperman, 2003
19 HRSA, 2001; Terry, Bendi, & Patel, 2010
20 HRSA, 2001; Terry, Bendi, & Patel, 2010

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Resources

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