Streetwork: Homeless Youth Facts

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Who are homeless youth?

Homeless StreetworkAccording to a 2002 federal study, approximately 1.7 million young people call the streets home every year.

Children under 18 years of age accounted for 39% of the homeless population. Of that number, 42% were younger than age 5.

Approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as L(esbian) G(ay) B(isexual) or T(ransgendered) – compared to 10% of the general youth population in the United States.

What can cause a young person to be homeless?

What can cause a young person to be homeless?Young people are at far greater risk of becoming homeless if their parents engage in substance abuse or have mental health problems, if there is child abuse or neglect in the home, if the family has been homeless previously, or if they identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found that 46% of homeless youth escaped a home where they suffered physical abuse, while 17% left because of sexual abuse.

Children who have been in foster care have a greater risk of becoming homeless at an earlier age than other youth, and are more likely to remain homeless for a longer period of time.

What happens to young people who try to survive on the streets?

What happens to young people who try to survive on the streets?Young people who are too old for foster care and too young to apply for social services face devastating short- and long-term consequences from being forced to survive on the streets.

  • Nearly 43% of homeless young men and 39% of homeless young women say they were assaulted with a weapon while living on the streets.
  • Homeless youth suffer significant mental health problems that include depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Young people living on the streets are highly likely to be engaged in substance abuse (approximately 75%), as a means to self-medicate to deal with traumatic experiences and abuse they face while trying to survive.
  • Children living on the streets are more likely to engage in “survival sex” – trading sex to gain food, clothing, drugs, money, or just for a safe place to sleep at night.
  • According to a San Francisco government study, 17% of homeless youth are HIV-positive.
  • Homeless youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered are more likely commit suicide than other youth.
  • Every year, approximately 5,000 homeless young people will die because of assault, illness, or suicide while on the street.

How does Safe Horizon help young people affected by violence and abuse?

How does Safe Horizon help young people affected by violence and abuse?Nearly 20,000 homeless people 24 years old and younger live in New York City, most of whom have fled to the streets because of violence and abuse. Safe Horizon’s Streetwork program offers homeless and street-involved youth a refuge – a hot meal, a hot shower, and a lifeline.

  • Streetwork makes contact with more than 19,000 youth each year through our two drop-in centers, two residential programs, and street outreach services.
  • Streetwork distributes over 45,000 meals to young people every year.
  • Streetwork offers free legal, medical, and psychiatric services; individual and group counseling; practical and educational assistance; advocacy; HIV prevention; and many other services that homeless youth urgently need, all in a safe, non-judgmental setting.

What can I do to help young people in crisis?

What can I do to help young people in crisis?Safe Horizon’s Streetwork program helps give homeless young people the refuge they need from the streets – and critical resources they need to find safety and hope. You can make a difference for young people in crisis through any of the following ways:

Donate today and help provide young people with the tools they need to find brighter, safer futures. 

Volunteer your time and skills to help young people.

Find out more about Streetwork and how we help homeless and street-involved youth.

More information about homeless youth

National Child Traumatic Stress Network
National Coalition for the Homeless
National Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning, Hunter College - School of Social Work, City University of New York

Safe Horizon's mission is to provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities.

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