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Financial, Housing, and Other Resources for Homeless Youth

Youth homelessness is a substantial issue in the United States. In any given year, it is estimated that 700,000 unaccompanied youth ages 13 to 25 go without a roof over their heads — but that statistic only accounts for unaccompanied youth. When including minors with families, it is estimated that 3.5 million youth experience homelessness in a year.

The stigma surrounding homelessness doesn’t make matters any better; nor, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, do the “inefficiencies and lack of coordination of homelessness services and over-policing [that] limit healthcare access and treatment, curb the attainment of long-term housing, and further stigmatize and constrain economic and social mobility.” The cycle of homelessness, like the cycle of poverty, is perpetuated by the social and economic stratification common in the U.S.

The following article serves as a guide to direct readers to the appropriate resources for homeless or emancipated youth. Continue reading to find resources on housing and living accommodations, food and living essentials, medical care, financial assistance, and other forms of help.

Causes of Youth Homelessness

There is a misconception that young people become homeless by choice. The misconception follows that young people are seeking a bohemian lifestyle, tired of doing chores around the house, or are young adventurers eager to see the world. This romanticized notion of youth homelessness falls far from reality — only a portion of young homeless people go to the streets by choice.

Populations Most Affected by Youth Homelessness

The following populations are among the most vulnerable in regards to youth homelessness:

  • Foster care youth: Children who are aging out of foster care are at risk of homelessness. This population is no longer supported by the government and must fend for themselves. In other words, they must look for a job, find housing accommodations, get healthcare, and manage their own finances.
  • LGBTQ+ youth: About 40% of all homeless youth are LGBTQ+ and Black LGBTQ+ youth make up a significant portion of that population at 31%. A report by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago titled “Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America” found that LGBTQ+ youth “had a 120% higher risk of reporting homelessness.” Not only do LGBTQ+ youth struggle to avoid becoming homeless, but, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, they also face “social stigma, discrimination, and rejection by their families” on the basis of their sexual orientation.
  • Youth with less than a high school diploma or GED: Chapin Hall also found that youth with less than a high school diploma or GED “had a 346% higher risk of reporting homelessness.”
  • Low-income youth: According to “Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America, low-income youth also experience homelessness at disparate levels, having “a 162% higher risk of reporting homelessness.”
  • Youth of color: The National Network for Youth points out the disparities between youth of color and white youth; compared to their white peers, Black or African American youth were found to have an 82% higher risk of homelessness and non-white Hispanic youth have a 33% higher risk.
  • Pregnant or sexually active youth: According to Chapin Hall, unmarried youth with children “had a 200% higher risk of reporting homelessness.” 
  • Physical, sexual, or emotionally abused youth: Abused youth are also at risk. Young, white, and female youth are the most vulnerable to sexual or physical abuse.
  • Youth engaging in substance use: Youth who engage in substance use are also more at risk of becoming homeless.

Resources for Housing, Food, and Living Essentials

Food insecurity is a substantial health risk among homeless youth. However, not much research regarding food insecurity among homeless youth exists. Research tends to cover adults or families with children.

Moreover, it has been found that access to housing does not always align with access to food or other living essentials. Research finds that supportive housing only improves some food insecurity among young adults. Determinants such as housing policies regarding kitchen use, limited cooking skills, and coping strategies for hunger influenced young adults’ food access.

Housing and Living Accommodations

Below are resources on housing and living accommodations for homeless youth:

  • Transitional Living Program for homeless youth: The Transitional Living Program (TLP) for homeless youth provides housing accommodations to youth ages 16 to 22 for up to 21 months. This service is provided through the U.S. government.
  • Safe Place: Safe Place is a national organization that “provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for youth in need. As a community initiative, the program designates schools, fire stations, libraries, and other youth-friendly organizations as Safe Place locations, which display the yellow and black sign.” There are Safe Place locations across the U.S.
  • Coalition for the Homeless: Coalition for the Homeless helps individuals in New York find affordable housing, as well as supportive housing. Supportive housing is designed for those suffering from mental illnesses, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse issues, or young adults who are now too old for foster care.
  • Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Youth: The Maternity Group Homes exist as part of the Transitional Living Program. These housing accommodations support parenting youth between the ages of 12 and 22, as well as their children. Young people who are pregnant are also accepted at these homes.

Food and Living Essentials

Below are resources on food for homeless youth:

  • Feeding America: Feeding America is a nationwide network of food banks, pantries, and meal programs. Individuals can contact their community food banks for more information about the programs available to them.
  • Foodpantries.org: Foodpantries.org can be used to find local food pantries, soup kitchens, food shelves, food banks, and other sources of help related to food.
  • USDA National Hunger Clearinghouse: The USDA National Hunger Clearinghouse aids low-income and homeless individuals and communities by providing information on food and nutrition. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • Move For Hunger: Move For Hunger provides food resources, as well as facts on homelessness and food insecurity and their respective impacts on children.
  • Helping Women Period: Helping Women Period is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide no-cost menstrual products to homeless or low-income people.

Resources for Medical Care and Outreach

According to the journal Nursing Research, homeless young adults are exposed to a variety of health risks, including “substance use, risky sexual behavior, unhygienic living conditions, and poor access to health care.” They also may have poorly controlled mental illnesses and a lack of immunizations.

Adolescent women are especially vulnerable. Having knowledge of both mental and physical health resources is essential for these populations to combat and control their circumstances to the best of their abilities.

Mental and Physical Health

Below are resources on mental and physical health for homeless youth:

  • National Healthcare for the Homeless Council: The National Healthcare for the Homeless Council works to provide health care alongside housing accommodations. Their website can be used to find best practices and research, immediate help, resources on taking actions, and advice or training on homeless health care.
  • National Alliance to End Homeless: The National Alliance to End Homelessness offers resources on accessing health care and details the link between health and homelessness.
  • National Health Care for the Homeless Council: Health Care for the Homeless works mainly out of Baltimore, Maryland, but features resources on their site for anyone to use.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides resources for homeless youth struggling with mental health issues.
  • Street Outreach Program: The Family and Youth Services Bureau provides a Street Outreach Program fact sheet detailing the prevalence of sexual abuse and exploitation homeless youth are exposed to. The goal of the program is to build relationships, as well as get adolescents into safe shelters.

Resources for Financial Education and Management

Managing your own personal finances and spending habits is essential for young adults looking to get off the streets and get ahead in life. Financial education, however, may be hard to obtain for youth without stable home lives or access to educators.

Some of the most important financial basics including saving, budgeting, understanding credit, and building your credit. Never learning these basics holds back homeless youth from completing several of life’s common milestones — buying a car, obtaining a credit card, or renting an apartment with no credit score.

A lack of financial guidance may leave them susceptible to predatory lending. Loans that offer fast cash or quick approval can be enticing to someone living on the streets, but they can seriously hurt personal finances. What’s more, predatory loans can come in several forms. A chain of for-profit colleges targeted homeless youth with promises that their programs would lead to jobs. Phony marketing and predatory loans strapped young adults in and led to piles of student debt.

Employment Resources

Below are resources and opportunities for employment for homeless youth:

  • National Coalition for the Homeless: The National Coalition for the Homeless provides employment resources, such as job training and placement programs. The organization also emphasizes the importance of providing childcare services and transportation.
  • YouthCare: YouthCare offers an employment program that discusses topics ranging from internships to the local economy. The organization also offers access to educational services, shelter and housing, and prevention programs.
  • Hippy Feet: Hippy Feet is a benefit corporation with a mission to support homeless youth through transitional employment opportunities.

Nonprofit Credit Counseling

Nonprofit credit counseling organizations obtain donations from creditors which makes it possible to support homeless or low-income individuals, allowing them to receive the financial services they need for low to no cost. The goal of nonprofit credit counseling organizations is to help people with their finances, rather than to turn a profit.

These organizations usually offer all or a combination of the following services:

Below are nonprofit credit counseling organizations:

Resources for Homeless Higher Education/College Students

Higher education generally leads to a higher income, and may also contribute to increased job opportunities and more financial stability. While this isn’t always true, it is a good rule of thumb, especially for anybody looking to create a more financially fit version of themselves.

Legal protections, scholarships, and on-campus resources exist to make college accessible to anybody regardless of income. Performing your own research on these topics is essential for taking education into your hands.

Legal Protections for Education

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law passed in 1987. The act provides federal funding for homeless shelters across the U.S. Part of the law ensures that homeless youth are able to attend school by providing free transportation.

It also nullifies the need for documents traditionally required to enroll in schools, such as proof of residence or immunization records. These documents may be hard for homeless youth to obtain. Allowing students to attend without these documents eases the stress associated with enrolling for school and seeks to bolster attendance rates among homeless youth.

Scholarships for Homeless Youth/Formerly Homeless Youth

Scholarships are awards of financial aid granted to students. They help reduce the cost of tuition, making higher education more accessible. Scholarships may be granted for a variety of reasons, such as academic achievements, community service, military service, and being the first in the family to attend college. Homeless students may also receive scholarships.

Below are a few of the potential scholarships available to students:

  • Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Scholarship: The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless provides scholarships to high school seniors in the Chicago area. Applicants must be graduating from high school and must have been homeless at some point during their high school education.
  • Homeless Children’s Education Fund’s Hope Through Learning Award: The Homeless Children’s Education Fund provides the Hope Through Learning Award. This scholarship is available to students ages 24 and under who live in Allegheny County.
  • SchoolHouse Connection Youth Scholarship Program: The SchoolHouse Connection provides a Youth Scholarship Program for youth who have experienced homelessness. The program also offers students peer and adult guidance before, during, and after college.

Other Resources for Homeless Students

Below are a few other resources for homeless students: