Category Archives: homeless youth

How many homeless youth are there?

How many Kids are Homeless?

There is a  Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report to Congress with information on this subject titled Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics, Programs, and Emerging Issues which was published in January 2007.  This link is to their 37 page report. 

I think they are being honest when they say this:

The precise number of homeless and runaway youth is unknown due to their residential mobility and overlap among the populations. Determining the number of these youth is further complicated by the lack of a standardized methodology for counting the population and inconsistent definitions of what it means to be homeless or a runaway.

Estimates of the homeless youth population range from 52,000 to over one million.  Estimates of runaway youth – including “thrownaway” youth – are between 1 million and 1.7 million.

Part of the problem of counting homeless youth is that they often avoid shelters and more or less hide in inaccessable areas where they avoid counters.  Some hide out with friends, others take to the woods and alleys, even the rails.  You may have seen an earlier post of mine (Homeless Youth Project) where loose groups of homeless youth ride the rails around the country.  Youth that do come into contact with census counters are reluctant to admit that they are homeless.    

The 52,000 to over 1 million estimates are based on a series of counting attempts through the decades.    A 1987 GAO report estimated 52,000 to 170,000 homeless on any one night.  CDC’s 1992 National Health Interview Survey of youth ages 12 to 17 determined that 5% of those they surveyed had been homeless during some part of the prior year.  That estimate came to more than a million youth that experienced homelessness during that year.

The latest federal survey was conducted by NISMART – (National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children) which was conducted in 1999.  That study found that 1.8 million youth under age 18 left home or were asked to leave home in 1999 (at some time during the year). 

The NISMART-2 study for 1999 shows that:

1.8 million youth under age 18 experienced homelessness

68% were between the ages of 15 and 17 (1,224,000)

32% were 14 or younger (612,000) 

20% reported sexual abuse in the home (360,000)

33% reported family conflict in the home (600,000)

there were about an equal number of males and females

57% were White, 17% Black, 15% Hispanic

about 11,000 were runaway foster children

more than half left home for more than 1 to 6 days

30% traveled 1 to 10 miles from home

30% traveled 11 to 50 miles from home

nearly 99% were returned to their homes

That leaves more than 18,000 that never came back that year.

Another study, reported by Jan Moore,  Unaccompanied and Homeless Youth Review of Literature (1995-2005)  ,  reported 1 million to 1.3 million homeless youth.   I reported on this study earlier, see How many of the Homeless are Youth? 

Also see a forum report I presented in 2006 on the Cobb Faith Partnership site titled:  Homelessness Among Children and Youth – Basic Facts in which 1.35 million homeless children are reported homeless in a given year, according to the National Law Center.    The numbers seem to be centering around 1.3 million with a spread of 300,000 either way.   I feel that the numbers probably fluctuate wildly on any given day in any given year, much like trying to get the average level of a raging river.

Factors Influencing Homelessness and Leaving Home:  Youth most often cite family conflict as the major reason for their homelessness or episodes of running away. A literature review of homeless youth found that a youth’s relationship with a step-parent, sexual activity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, school problems, and alcohol and drug use were strong predictors of family discord.  14% of Foster kids that age out of the system experience homelessness the first year and 25% at sometime overall.   Another report shows 20%.

Of those callers who used the National Runaway Switchboard (a federally-sponsored call center for youth and their relatives involved in runaway incidents) one third attributed family conflict as the reason for their call.  Runaway and homeless youth also describe abuse and neglect as common experiences.  Over 20% of youth in the NISMART-2 reported being physically or sexually abused at home in the prior year
or feared abuse upon returning home.

Congress has funded 102 million dollars for three federal funded programs:

Basic Center Program: To provide outreach, crisis intervention, temporary shelter, counseling, family unification, and after care services to runaway and homeless youth under age 18 and their families.

Transitional Living Program: To support projects that provide homeless youth ages 16 to 21 with stable, safe longer-term residential services up to 18 months (or longer if the youth has not reached age 18), including counseling in basic life skills, interpersonal skills building, educational advancement, job attainment skills, and physical and mental health care. 

Street Outreach Program: To provide street-based outreach and education, including treatment, counseling, provision of information, and referrals for runaway, homeless, and street youth who have been subjected to or are at risk of being subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation.

Those are the facts on homeless youth, the best that I can report at this time.   You can select whatever set of data suits your purpose, but it appears the most current data comes in somewhere between 1 and 1.8 million kids that experience homelessness in any given year, centering around 1.3 million youth.  

There is no good estimate as to how many that amounts to on any given night, but if you are one of those kids, it is way too many. 

Those are our kids out there

Some Special Links:

Click to see all Oldtimer Speaks Out homeless youth articles (35 so far).

Click here if you came here to find Oldtimer’s articles on Homeless Veterans (75 so far)

Grace and Peace,


A Few Street Kids

Wikipedia defines “street children” this way:

Street children or street urchins are homeless children who live on the street – in particular, those that are not taken care of by parents or other adults. Street children live in abandoned buildings, containers, automobiles, parks, or on the street itself.

That is in contrast to children that are homeless that are living in shelters or taking refuge with friends or relatives.    Below are a few pictures of street kids taken by various photographers around this country who have posted them under a creative commons license.

Market Street, San Francisco

Photo complements of davitydave Photo taken on Market Street, San Francisco.  Creative Commons License   Find it Here

Haight Street San Francisco

Photo Complements of kristiewells Photo taken on Haight Street San Francisco.  Creative Commons License   Find it Here

kristiewells says this about the photo: “We gave them our leftovers from Pork Store Cafe. I asked if I could take their picture which they said was OK, but they were so happy to be eating, I didn’t want to disturb them to get a better photo. ”

Homeless in Austin Texas
Photo Courtesy of  dground Photo taken on Sixth Street in Austin Texas Creative Commons License  Find it Here

Homeless in Minnesota

Photo from The Epoch Times, Minnesota

They had this to say about the picture and runaway kids:

According to a recent statewide survey of homeless people in Minnesota, conducted by the Wilder Research Center, for most youths, going back to live with their parents is not a viable solution. Their homeless plight started as a result of their parents. Fearing their chemically dependent or physically or sexual abusive parents, many youths would rather endure the life on the streets than return home. Many have already lived in foster care, detention or treatment centers.

Dave Eha, a 21-year-old homeless youth for the last six months said, “For many out here, it isn’t like a choice. You would hear all the time how someone was molested or physically abused. Many of the kids are forced to become homeless or else live in an abusive situation.”

The Wilder Research report found that homeless kids were:

Five times more likely to have been treated for alcohol or drug problems, although homeless youths are half as likely to report current use of alcohol.

More than three times more likely to have been hit by a date or intimate partner.

Three times more likely to have been physically abused

For girls, 20 times more likely to have been pregnant; for boys 10 times more likely to have had a sexual relationship that resulted in pregnancy.

Youth of color are three to four times more prevalent among the homeless.

Come ON folks, these could have been your kids.

Find a way to help.


Homeless Youth Project

Homeless Youth Project 

Early on in this blog I wrote a number of articles on homeless youth,  but lately I have written mostly about homeless veterans and also PTSD among veterans.   All of these areas are under-served.   If you do a tag click on “homeless youth”, you will find that despite not having written anything on our youth since August 7th, 27 of the 28 posts that are brought up by WordPress were written by me.   No one seems to care about our youth and few about our homeless veterans.   Well, I care.

I’ve noticed a lot of visitors lately looking at my earlier posts on homeless youth and realized that I’ve been neglecting that area.   I’ve written 32 posts on homeless youth and 72 on homeless veterans, but nothing on the youth lately.   I’ll try to keep this more balanced.  If anyone else wants to jump in and blog about either subject you will be most welcome, since the object here is to shine as much light as possible so someone somewhere with a little clout will put up some muscle and really help.

Homeless Youth  

Photo by Mike Brodie, see link below

Below is an interesting video, actually a slide show set to music and above is a shot from that video taken off of the photographer’s website.  I don’t know whether the person that put it in slide show (realstraycat)  with music is associated with the photographer or not, but I recognized the pictures immediately.  The photographer is a homeless youth himself, having taken most of these pictures with a beat-up old Polaroid camera made in the 1970s.   Simply amazing photos though.

Mike Brodie, the Polaroid Kidd, photographed these pictures which are part of a touring exhibition – “Brodie left home at 18 to travel the rails across America, and found himself spending three years photographing the friends and companions he encountered with a Polaroid SX-70 camera.

“Photography has made me what I am. It pulls me in all directions. It gives and takes friends, and pushes me to move miles and miles. My desire to photograph these people in the beginning is what led me to develop such great relationships with them; some being relationships that will last clear on ’til the day I die. I’m really lucky ’cause I never used to be this social.”

Brodie’s pictures are authentic and show the beauty of some of America’s most overlooked people. These are images captured by a member of the tribe and through a sympathetic lens.” 

The music in the video is moody and sad, as it should be.  The pictures are captivating, nothing risque, but telling the truth:  There is nothing glamorous about being a homeless kid or homeless young adult.  Moments of fun maybe, but mostly misery and danger – always danger. Freedom to eat what you can find, sleep where you dare, fight for your coat and shoes, and hope that somehow you will survive long enough to grow up. 

Traveling together is a form of protection from sexual predators and other gangs, an almost communal way to share needs, food, clothes, survival, and a way to share street smarts that were learned the much too hard way.


Here is a link to some of Mike Brodie’s still photos if you want to see them in all their glory.   Street kids, mostly traveling on the railroad, panhandling on the streets or hanging out in makeshift shacks in the woods.   Beautiful and telling photography.  My Polaroids never looked like these.

Here are some links you may be interested in:

 Homeless Youth – Some Random Facts that May Scare You

Homelessness Among Children and Youth – Basic Facts 

How many of the Homeless are Youth?

Link to all Homeless Youth Articles by Oldtimer


Homeless Youth

Homeless Kids and Bus Stops

Homeless Kids and Bus Stops 

(Written by a Homeless Father in Jacksonville)

At the (homeless) center I stay at with my family, there are 17 children that attend one school in particular. They are not provided a bus stop by the bus transportation office of the local school system, who is standing behind ‘sex offender’ laws for refusing to do so.

This last week I went to legal aid for counsel and possible representation. I got all the parents of the children to sign a petition. It’s a start.

My biggest problem is when I went to a director of one agency I’ve worked alot with, they wouldn’t do anything until they saw what reaction or backup I got from another. It’s political. It was admitted. It doesn’t make me feel any less better, and it’s made more of a wall when it comes to considering working with management that hasn’t ever been homeless yet makes their living off them.

In the meantime…I’ve requested a meeting with the local school liason for homeless students and her supervisor to inform them of my intent to continue pursuing a bus stop, as well as give them the chance to say their side. In all fairness, our liason is pretty good and wonderful…it’s looking like she was used as a ‘channel’ for communication when someone who should have done their job didn’t.

Oldtimer’s Comment:  It seems to me that this is a “catch 22” situation of sorts.  The school system won’t put a bus stop near a shelter because shelters are perceived rightly or wrongly as a place where sexual offenders are/might be.  Yet the shelter is a shelter for homeless familes including 17 children.  Virtually all the children that will get on and off the proposed bus stop come out of the shelter being cited as an unsafe place for the bus to stop (because it is an unsafe place for children to be!)


Homeless Kids and School

 Homeless Kids and School

 A Struggle, but Worth It.

There are 1.3 to 1.6 Million homeless kids on the streets of America in an average year.  It is not uncommon for many of these kids to go to school while living in cars, vans, in encampments, shelters, motels, hotels or with relatives while their parents (usually a single parent mom) are toughening it out with no stable place to call home.   Often they do live with that parent in conditions far less than desirable, but homeless nevertheless.

For the most part, homeless kids  have at least one shepherding parent and the entire family is homeless.   According to state departments of education across the country, 35% of homeless children lived in shelters, 34% were in group situations with family or friends, and 23% were in motels or other places in 2000.   Thankfully, these youngsters are guaranteed an education by this country, the good old USA.   

The McKinney-Vento Act applies to all children and youth who do not have a fixed, regular and adequate residence, including children and youth who are: staying with friends or relatives because they lost their housing; awaiting foster placement; or living in emergency or transitional shelters, motels, domestic violence shelters, campgrounds, inadequate trailer parks, cars, public spaces, abandoned buildings and bus/train stations.

Children and youth in homeless situations have the right to:

Go to school, no matter where they live or how long they have lived there;
Choose between the local school where they are living, the school they attended before they lost their housing, or the school where they were last enrolled;
Enroll in school without proof of residency, immunizations, school records, or other documents;
Get transportation to school;
Get all the school services they need;
Be free from harassment and isolation; and
Have disagreements with the school settled quickly.

The following story clipped in part from a news article (read the rest here) tells about the situation in only one state, Illinois.


School system helps eliminate barriers between homeless, education

Sunday, August 5, 2007

By Holly Wagner

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

BETTY HAS BEEN living in Madonna House since October with her two teenage children. During the month she spent in jail, she lost her apartment and her children stayed with a relative.

“I think it’s been a struggle for them somewhat,” said shelter director Audra Hampton. “It’s sometimes embarrassing at that age. They don’t want anyone to know they are here. … But they seem settled.”

The youngsters have had to adjust to several transitions in the past year, but missing school has not been one of them. Under federal law, all children – whether they have a permanent address – are guaranteed an education.

This summer, the Illinois State Board of Education is working with the state’s shelters to eliminate the barriers homeless students face in getting access to public education.

ISBE data indicates 18,000 students in the state were homeless in 2006. Based on the 750,000 students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches, ISBE estimates that number is probably closer to 60,000.

The Regional Office of Public Education in Adams and Pike counties collects data on homelessness from its districts to forward to ISBE. During the last school year, the two counties reported that the homeless they served totaled eight in preschool, 45 in elementary school, four in middle or junior high school and nine at high school level, according to Jim Kaiser, the ROE’s school improvement coordinator.

“Every year the number has been going up,” he said. “We’re doing a better job of identifying those kids.”

These students face a range of problems, from finding a way to get to school, to having the appropriate clothing and finding a quiet place to study.

Each school district appoints a go-to person to work with the homeless. Quincy High School Principal Terry Ellerman is the liaison for Quincy schools.

Homeless families don’t always draw attention to their situation, Ellerman said. Sometimes the district finds out about homelessness from a social service agency or identifies it when a student registers.

School secretaries are often the front line in making that determination, noting when the address of a shelter, hotel or a post office box is given or no one is listed as a guardian.

“Home, if we were fortunate, is a place that provides stability in our thinking, it’s a place to feel safe,” said Assistant Superintendent Christie Dickens, formerly principal of Dewey School. “When a child is missing that element, there are a lot of things that could transpire … a lot of fearfulness and behaviors that are associated with that.

“Certainly that child would be somebody we would keep an attentive watch on to see if they needed some emotional support.”

The district helps match homeless families with social service agencies, Dickens said. One of Betty’s children is receiving counseling at Transitions of Western Illinois.

The district liaison helps these students enroll, whether they have transcripts from past schools; makes sure transportation does not prevent them from attending; and helps them to resolve disputes with the school system.

(Please read the rest of the story at the link above)


Drive By Missions

Drive By Missions 

I was surprised this morning that one of my posts, “Homeless Veterans – An Overview of the Problem” had suddenly taken off.   More than 30 times as many viewers as is normal for the past month.   Then I became a little curious and checked my StatCounter site and found that all but a very few, more than 90 percent registered a “0 second” visit time.   Uh Oh – “Drive By Viewing“.   A commercial site had mentioned, with all good intentions, that this was a good post and therefore highly recommended it.    I looked up the site.  Every click on my site for that post was referred back to an advertisement for the host service, not the site recommending mine.

That site is being charged 5 cents per click.  They are being charged “through the nose” for the clicks they send me, but they apparently are mostly not real clicks.   Perhaps 1 in 10 are actually visiting my site, but the host is sending me clicks for every visitor that clicks on their site and I get fake views and the site gets charged a nickel per view, fake or real.   The person that recommended me thinks he/she is doing good in their recommendation, and I’m appreciative for the 10% that actually look in, but it is mostly drive-by accounting on the part of their host that bothers me.  They think they are doing good but I’m getting drive by views.

That made me think about drive by missions – mission trips to the homeless that are, in effect, drive by missions- well intentioned but mostly fake.   I’m talking about the many that want to help out, but do so from the window of their car, or a few steps outside.   They drive up, hand out a small baggie of goodies and then take off, looking for another homeless person to mission to, all the while feeling good about themselves.

The homeless person looks up from his bench and sees a half dozen well dressed people headed his way and thinks “Uh Oh – Drive By Mission“.    Within a few seconds, he is handed a baggie with comb, soap, wash cloth, and maybe a candy bar or two; the baggie often stapled to a religious tract.   A few halting words, a “God Bless You!” and they are off.  “They didn’t even ask my name!”  

The same people would not toss a few coins in the cup of a panhandler nor offer to buy a sandwich for a homeless person outside of a McDonalds.   Nor would they actually engage a homeless person in small talk.  Too much to ask.  But collectively they get up enough courage to take a token gift to a few homeless people they find as they drive around.  That way their fellow group members all get to know how good they each are and they feel they have done their duty for the year, all the while exercising safety in numbers. 

Helping the homeless is much more than that.  It means being active in an organization that helps the homeless or picking the homeless up and bringing them to church, asking them to break bread together (at the same table).  It means donating folding money, it means volunteering at a homeless shelter or going out to the bridges and taking food, clothing, blankets and socks.  It means holding meaningful conversations, finding out what each needs and promising to come back (and actually doing so) on a regular basis.  

It means writing your congressman, your local United Way, your newspaper, and promoting through writing some legislation or program or understanding that benefits the homeless.   It means speaking out to help a shelter remain open or a tent city to remain, or keeping a small encampment from being removed.   It means helping the dislocated homeless when they are chased out of their sanctuary in the woods or under a bridge.  

 It means showing respect and compassion for the homeless and also taking up for them when someone calls them “bums” and promotes “running them out of town.”  It means educating yourself on what causes homelessness, what works and what doesn’t work, and making sure the city and/or county leaders know your position and expectation that they will find a way to help.  Sometimes it means riding around in a church bus or van on cold nights and rounding up the homeless to take them to a shelter, or knitting hats and scarves for cold winter days, purchasing “sun showers” (solar heated water bags) for camps and also sometimes putting someone up in a motel or rooming house for a period of time. 

I’m sure the homeless are appreciative of the goody bags, sandwich or tract, but there is so much more that could be done if the same people had put the same energy into actually stopping and asking what is needed after some meaningful conversation.   Then supply that need, even if it means serving only half as many drive bys.


Homeless Map – Can you find me?

Can You Find Me?

Amazing Map

If you want to see a really amazing map, go to this site:

Note:  Be sure to click on “Start Animation”This is an animated map, The Downtown Los Angeles Homeless map, which takes raw data about those sleeping on the streets and transforms it into a visual tool for understanding the situation. It shows only those sleeping on the streets. The map also shows the number of tents, tarps, and cardboard boxes in use at any given time. The map is always changing, and cycles through the last 10 weeks, showing how the population of the homeless is always changing. Downtown Los Angeles is the epicenter of the largest homeless population in the United States.The Downtown Los Angeles Homeless map takes raw data about those sleeping on the streets and transforms it into a visual tool for understanding the situation.

The Count
Central division performs its homeless counts every two weeks. Officers canvass each block encompassed in its boundaries and make a count of men, women, children and various kinds of shelters. A log is made of the address and the number present in each category.

Creating the map
Cartifact takes the raw data from Central division and pulls it into its GIS system. The system geocodes each address to produce coordinates for the address. The plotted points are then placed onto a map of downtown Los Angeles and styled to better convey the information. The finished map is provided back to LAPD in order to serve the needs of the department, and is also placed here for public access.

They are Still Out There