Unsheltered Homeless Youth (Point-in-Time Count), by Age Group

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Learn More About Homelessness

Measures of Homelessness on Kidsdata.org
Kidsdata.org presents the number and percentage of public school enrollees (ages 3-21) who were recorded as being homeless at any time in the school year. These data are provided by grade level and nighttime residence at the state, county, and school district levels. The number of homeless public school students in each state legislative district also is available, provided by the California Homeless Youth Project at the California Research Bureau and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. Counts of very young homeless children (i.e., from birth through Kindergarten) also are presented for each county. Data come from the Homeless Education Program in the School Turnaround Office at the California Department of Education and are based on the McKinney-Vento Act education definition, which includes students whose primary nighttime residence is a shelter, hotel, or motel; who are sharing housing with others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; or who are unsheltered.1

Kidsdata.org also presents the number of children and youth found to be unsheltered during the national Point-in-Time (PIT) count (during one 24-hour period within the last ten days of January), by age group. For the unsheltered count, individuals are considered to be homeless if they reside in a place not meant for human habitation on the night of the count, including in a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or on the street (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homeless Assistance Programs, 2008).2 These data are made available through a partnership of the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health and the California Homeless Youth Project, a research and policy initiative of the California Research Bureau supported by funding from the California Wellness Foundation and dedicated to educating local and state policymakers about young people experiencing homelessness.
1. When analyzing data based on the McKinney-Vento Act education definition, please note: 
  • Enrolled is defined as attending classes and participating fully in school activities.
  • Data on nighttime residence represents the most recently reported living situation.
  • These data may include duplicate counts of homeless students. As homeless students frequently move from district to district, it is possible that the same student will be reported by multiple districts.
  • These data also could underrepresent the extent of homelessness among public school students because of the sensitivity around the issue. Parents/guardians may not want to report homelessness to school staff, and school staff may have a difficult time gathering and reporting this information. In addition, homeless youth (particularly those who are older) may not self-identify for fear of contact with law enforcement or child protective services, and/or fear of reunification with parents/guardians. Also, only a very small percentage of children who are not yet school age come into contact with schools. For this reason, data are an extreme undercount of very young homeless children.
Please visit the Homeless Education Program in the School Turnaround Office at the California Department of Education for more information.

2. Since 2005, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has required communities receiving federal funding for housing and homelessness programs to conduct an annual sheltered Housing Inventory Count (HIC) and biennial unsheltered count as a part of local service planning processes. Although communities have consistently been required to count their numbers of unaccompanied minors as a sub-population of interest, data on transitional age youth (TAY, ages 18-24) were sparse until 2013, the first year that HUD required that communities report on the number of TAY encountered in the PIT count. This data set includes limited TAY numbers for 2011 in communities that collected and reported TAY numbers for local purposes. Federal agencies, researchers, and advocates agree that the homeless youth population remains largely hidden and under-counted. Continuing to improve the inclusion of youth in PIT counts is a key step in better collecting and applying data on homelessness in the United States. Please see the summary report, We Count, California!: Lessons Learned from Efforts to Improve Youth Inclusion in California's 2015 Point-in-Time Counts, for more information.
Family Income and Poverty
Food Security
Intimate Partner Violence
Housing Affordability
Disconnected Youth
Why This Topic Is Important
Homelessness causes severe trauma to children and youth, disrupting their relationships, putting their health and safety at risk, and hampering their development (1, 2). Homeless children are more likely than other children to have physical and mental health problems, and experience hunger and malnutrition (2). Emotional distress, developmental delays, and decreased academic achievement are also more common in this population (2). Many of these children and youth experience deep poverty, instability and exposure to domestic violence before becoming homeless, and homelessness increases their vulnerability to additional trauma (1, 2). In addition to the risks faced by homeless children, including increased vulnerability to sexual exploitation (3), youth without homes are far more likely than their peers to be infected with HIV (4) and have other serious health problems (2).

In 2013, more than 1 million children in the U.S. public school system were homeless, a historic high for the nation (5). California, alone, accounted for just over one-fifth of all homeless public schools students in the nation that year (6), while ranking 48th of all 50 states in performance on issues of child homelessness (1).
Sources for this narrative:

1.  National Center on Family Homelessness. (2014). America’s youngest outcasts: A report card on child homelessness. Retrieved from: http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org/reportcard.php

2.  American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics. (2013). Providing care for children and adolescents facing homelessness and housing insecurity. Pediatrics, 131(6), 1206-1210. Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/6/1206

3.  Walker, K. (2013). Ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children: A call for multi-system collaboration in California. California Child Welfare Council. Retrieved from:http://youthlaw.org/publication/ending-commercial-sexual-exploitation-of-children-a-call-for-multi-system-collaboration-in-california/

4.  California Homeless Youth Project. (2014). HIV & youth homelessness: Housing as health care. Retrieved from: http://cahomelessyouth.library.ca.gov/docs/pdf/HIV&YouthHomelessnessFINAL.pdf

5.  National Center for Homeless Education. (2015). National overview: Consolidated state performance report. Retrieved from: http://nchespp.serve.org/profile/National

6.  Hyatt, S., et al. (2014). California’s homeless students: A growing population. California Homeless Youth Project. Retrieved from: http://cahomelessyouth.library.ca.gov/docs/pdf/CaliforniasHomelessStudents_AGrowingPopulation.pdf
How Children Are Faring
During the 2015 Point-in-Time (PIT) count, 11,365 children and youth were found to be living unaccompanied and unsheltered in California, meaning that they were residing in a place not meant for human habitation on the night of the count (e.g., in a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or on the street). Transitional age youth (TAY), i.e., youth ages 18 to 24, comprise the vast majority of unsheltered homeless youth identified. Specifically, there were more than 10,500 unsheltered homeless TAY in 2015. However, there are substantial numbers of unaccompanied minors identified each year, as well. In 2015, 834 unaccompanied minors were found to be living unsheltered across California - down from 1,668 in 2013 and 1,217 in 2011.

According to 2013-2014 data, 297,615 California public school students, 4.8% of all public school students, were reported to be homeless at any point during the school year. This percentage is up from the 2010-2011 school year, when 3.6% of public school students were reported to be homeless.

More than half of all homeless public school students in California were enrolled in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 5 (52%) in 2014, while 21% were in grades 6-8 and 27% in grades 9-12. 'Doubling up' with others for nighttime residence was the most common living situation among homeless public school students (86% in 2014).
Policy Implications
Student and family homelessness is often associated with extreme poverty, lack of access to affordable housing, and domestic violence, among other issues (1). Policies to address homelessness can operate at three levels: preventing families from becoming homeless in the first place; intervening early during a first spell of homelessness to return the family to housing; and providing permanent supportive housing to end long-term homelessness.

According to research and subject experts, policy and program options that could address family and youth homelessness include:
  • Unifying assessment practices across county and community-based agencies to identify families at risk of homelessness; providing coordinated housing programs that offer case management and supportive services; offering housing subsidies or cash assistance for mortgage/rent, which can help families either stay in their homes or gain stable housing; and facilitating eviction prevention through housing courts and landlord-tenant mediation (1, 2)
  • Providing employment and vocational training to parents to help them earn income, and providing comprehensive support to the whole family, e.g., children’s services, parenting programs, mental health or substance abuse treatment, domestic violence services, case management, and/or other needed support (1, 3, 4)
  • Effectively implementing the education subtitle of the federal McKinney-Vento Act, which requires removing barriers that prevent homeless children from receiving a quality education, such as providing transportation to the child’s school of origin (their “home” school) and waiving documentation requirements for school enrollment (e.g., documentation of immunization, residency, legal guardianship, birth certificates, etc.); also, ensuring adequate school staffing and training to comply with the law (4, 5)
  • Explicitly addressing the needs of homeless students in Local Control and Accountability Plans, which determine public school activities to support disadvantaged students (5)
  • Combating homelessness among unaccompanied youth by providing individualized service planning, ongoing support services, independent living skills training, connections to trustworthy and supportive adults and networks, and employment and education support (4, 6)
  • Providing support to homeless youth to safeguard against, and eliminate, the sexual exploitation of youth, where homeless youth are particularly vulnerable (7)
For more policy ideas on youth and family homelessness, see kidsdata.org's Research & Links section, the California Homeless Youth Project, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and YouthUnited States Interagency Council on Homelessness, or the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. Also see Policy Implications under the following topics on kidsdata.org: Family Income & Poverty, Housing Affordability, and Dating & Domestic Violence.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. (2010). Federal strategic plan supplemental document: Homelessness among families with children. Retrieved from: http://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/BkgrdPap_FamiliesWithChildren.pdf

2.  Corporation for Supportive Housing. (2011). Approaches for ending chronic homelessness in California through a coordinated supportive housing program. Retrieved from: http://www.csh.org/resources/approaches-for-ending-chronic-homelessness-in-california-through-a-coordinated-supportive-housing-program/

3.  National Center on Family Homelessness. (n.d.). Basic principles of care for families and children experiencing homelessness. Retrieved from: http://www.familyhomelessness.org/media/218.pdf

4.  Hyatt, S. (2013). More than a roof: How California can end youth homelessness. California Homeless Youth Project. Retrieved from: http://cahomelessyouth.library.ca.gov/docs/pdf/More-Than-a-Roof-FINAL.pdf 

5.  Hyatt, S., et al. (2014). California’s homeless students: A growing population. California Homeless Youth Project. Retrieved from: http://cahomelessyouth.library.ca.gov/docs/pdf/CaliforniasHomelessStudents_AGrowingPopulation.pdf

6.  U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. (2014). Opening doors: Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. Retrieved from: http://usich.gov/opening_doors/annual-update-2013/

7.  Walker, K. (2013). Ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children: A call for multi-system collaboration in California. California Child Welfare Council. Retrieved from: http://youthlaw.org/publication/ending-commercial-sexual-exploitation-of-children-a-call-for-multi-system-collaboration-in-california/
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Homelessness