Other Youth Topics


  1. Youth Topics
  2. Rates of Runaway and Homelessness

Rates of Runaway and Homelessness

Due to variations in the definition, timeframe, and age range used, the number of youth who have experienced homelessness varies significantly. Estimates suggest that between 500,000 and 2.8 million youth are homeless within the United States each year.1

Unaccompanied Youth Experiencing Homelessness

  • A 2004 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report estimated that about 1.6 million youth (7 percent) between the ages of 12 and 17 had run away from home and slept on the street during the previous year.2
  • The 2009 Department of Housing and Urban Development data suggest that unaccompanied youth accounted for about 2.2 percent of the sheltered population of persons experiencing homelessness, though this is recognized as a low estimate.
  • Most unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness are over twelve, but research has identified youth as young as nine who experience homelessness unaccompanied.3

Youth Experiencing Homelessness with Families

  • In 2009, 238,110 people in families were counted as experiencing homelessness in a single night. Over the course of the year, 535,447 people in families were sheltered. 4
  • The 2009 rates represent a 13 percent increase since 2007.5
  • Youth who experience homelessness with their families tend to be younger, with 2008 findings showing that over 51 percent were under the age of six, 34 percent were between the ages of 6 and 12, and only 15 percent were between the ages of 13 and 17.6

Runaway Youth

  • Estimates using data according to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth –1997 suggest that about 19 percent of youth ran away before they turned 18.7
  • About half of youth who ran away did so more than once and about 30 percent ran away three or more times.8


Voices of Youth Count

This webpage from Chapin Hall provides up-to-date infographics and reports on data related to youth and homelessness, along with related topics such as education, parenting, and LGBT youth. 


1 Cooper, 2006
2 SAMHSA, 2004
3 Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007
4 HUD, 2009
5 HUD, 2009
6 HUD, 2009
7 Pergamit, 2010
8 Pergamit, 2010

Other Resources on this Topic


Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).