3 Things to Know About the Youth Homelessness Crisis in California

Earlier this month, KidsData and the California Homeless Youth Project hosted “Bringing Youth Homelessness Into Focus,” a discussion of data trends, information gaps, resources, and tools—framed and informed by a young person’s lived expertise of homelessness.

Panelists from diverse sectors and regions examined some of the challenges and opportunities for using data and technology to address California’s youth homelessness crisis. Here are three main takeaways:

1. There are major limitations and variation in how data are collected and reported. Different data sources use different definitions of homelessness, and as a result offer wildly different answers to the question, “How many youth are experiencing homelessness in California?”

Homeless Unaccompanied Youth Under Age 25: 2022

Bar chart showing the number of unsheltered and sheltered unaccompanied youth ages 0-24 experiencing homelessness in California during the 2022 national point-in-time homeless count.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which counts people experiencing homelessness on a single night each January, found that around 10,000 young people ages 0 to 24 in California were unaccompanied (meaning they were not counted as part of a family with children) and staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, safe havens, or unsheltered locations.

Homeless Public School Students: 2020-21

Bar chart showing the number of California public school students recorded as homeless at any point during the 2020-21 school year, by type of nighttime residence.

By contrast, data collected by the California Department of Education (CDE)—which capture the number of public school students staying in hotels, motels, or shared housing with others (around 90% of all homeless students), in addition to those in temporary shelters or unsheltered locations—identified nearly 230,000 young people who experienced homelessness during the 2020-21 school year. Still, CDE data are not comprehensive, leaving out young people not enrolled in school and those experiencing homelessness outside of the school year, among other groups.

2. Tools to prevent or address homelessness should be developed with user needs at the forefront. Vu-Bang Nguyen of Exygy and Denise McCain-Tharnstrom of Our Community LA shared how lived expertise informs every step of the development process for the Bay Area’s Doorway Housing Portal and Los Angeles County’s WIN What I Need mobile app.

3. Destigmatizing homelessness is critical. The narrative of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” can be harmful, leading youth and families to blame themselves for circumstances outside of their control. The problem is compounded by overlapping barriers to navigating available service systems—from transportation challenges to lack of necessary information—that can prevent people experiencing homelessness or housing instability from seeking and accessing help.

Areas of focus and growth:

  • When asked which data they wished were available, participants pointed to gaps in detailed data for homeless subgroups, such as breakdowns by age or juvenile justice involvement.

  • Discussion from panelists, as well as comments and poll responses from participants, suggest that more resources are needed—both to provide housing and to connect those experiencing housing instability or homelessness with the supports they need.

Watch the recording below, and for more data and strategies to reduce youth homelessness, visit the YOU COUNT California Youth Homelessness Data Hub and KidsData.

KidsData in the News

Kern Child Deaths Drop 22% in 2022, While Some Categories See Spike

The Bakersfield Californian cited KidsData’s indicators of child maltreatment and child deaths, comparing figures for Kern County against statewide rates.

El costo por cuidado infantil sigue aumentando, mientras que los programas gratuitos son sujetos a listas de espera

A KION-TV news piece cited KidsData on the supply and cost of child care in Monterey County. 

Take Action

Comment Request: American Community Survey (ACS) and Puerto Rico Community Survey (PRCS)

Changes to survey questions related to disability, health insurance coverage, and other topics are being considered for the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2025 ACS and PRCS. Submit your comments on the proposed revisions by December 19.

Children’s Health Resources

The National Center for Health Statistics has released several new resources related to U.S. children’s health:

Data from the 2022 National Survey of Children’s Health are featured in two recent data briefs from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau:

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released highlights from its consensus study on Reducing Intergenerational Poverty.

Two recent publications from the California Essentials for Childhood Initiative and its partners highlight 2021 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and California Health Interview Survey:

The Children’s Partnership has released a community outreach toolkit, ALL IN to Keep Kids Covered, designed to help schools, child care providers, and other child and family champions share information about the Medi-Cal renewal process with families.


Request for Proposals: Addressing Anti-Black Racism in California Health Systems

The California Health Care Foundation plans to award grants of up to $150,000 for quality improvement projects that address anti-Black racism in California’s health care delivery system. Register for an informational webinar on Friday, December 1, at 1:00 p.m. PT.

Improving the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Children and Adolescents: Driving Factors and Root Causes

On Tuesday, December 5, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will host a webinar focused on factors contributing to the current mental health crisis among children and youth, including inequities in the mental health system.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about homelessness, housing affordability and resources, and unemployment. See links to the latest here.

Posted by kidsdata.org

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2023 at 9:47 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Post a comment/question: