Youth Homelessness Awareness & Prevention Month – November

November E-Newsletter – Youth Homelessness Awareness & Prevention Month

This month’s e-newsletter spotlights Youth Homelessness Awareness & Prevention Month. According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing & Homelessness data, over 4,000 Charlotte-Mecklenburg students experienced homelessness during the 2019-2020 school year. Nationally, findings from the Voices of Youth Count survey findings show 1 in 10 young adults aged 18-25, and at least 1 in 30 adolescents ages 13-17, experience some form of homelessness unaccompanied by a parent or guardian over the course of a year.

There are several risk factors for youth homelessness. Most notably, family discord and contentious family dynamics are the major reasons noted by youth as the reason for their homelessness or motive for running away. Sexual activity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, school problems, and substance use are strong predictors of family discord and influence youth homelessness as a result.1

As a result, some youth are at a greater risk of experiencing homelessness than others. The following statistics from the Voices of Youth Count survey describe the relative risk of certain groups of young adults aged 18-25.

  • Youth with less than a high school diploma or GED had a 346% higher risk than their peers who completed high school.
  • Unmarried parenting youth had a 200% higher risk of reporting homelessness.
  • Youth reporting an annual household income of less than $24,000 had a 162% higher risk of reporting homelessness.
  • LGBT youth had a 120% higher risk of reporting homelessness
  • Black or African American youth had an 83% higher risk of reporting homelessness.
  • Hispanic, non-White youth had a 33% higher risk of reporting homelessness.

The effects of youth homelessness can be substantial and long-lasting. Homeless youth are susceptible to numerous threats, including unmet basic needs like food and shelter, untreated behavioral health disorders, substance use, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual exploitation, and physical victimization.2  Further, teens who are homeless are twice as likely to attempt suicide than their peers who are not homeless.3

Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected homeless youth. Homeless youth face greater barriers when accessing healthcare and other community resources, an issue that has been exacerbated during the pandemic. Additionally, one study found that homeless students were more likely to suffer from asthma than their peers, a major risk factor influencing COVID-19 severity.4 Notably, in North Carolina, homeless students had twice the asthma prevalence rate than their peers (45% vs. 25%, respectively). Finally, the lack of access to basic household items such as sinks and a decreased ability to social distance places homeless youth at a higher risk of transmission of the virus. It is critical for community providers to address these barriers to better serve homeless youth during these unprecedented times.

1Paul A.Toro, Amy Dworsky, and Patrick J. Fowler. (2007) Homeless Youth in the United States: Recent Research Findings and Intervention Approaches. HUD, Office of Policy Development and Research and Michael Pergamit et al. (2016) Family Interventions for Youth Experiencing or At Risk of Homelessness. Urban Institute, for HHS, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.
2National Conference of State Legislatures, Youth Homelessness Overview
3Barnes, A. J., Gilbertson, J., & Chatterjee, D. (2018). Emotional health among youth experiencing family homelessness. Pediatrics, 141(4).
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016) Health Statistics Tables for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey. Table C-1,

Spotlight On: Trauma, Behavioral Health & Youth Homelessness

Michelle Rice, LCMHC
Behavioral Health Triage Clinician

Chanda Scott, LCMHC
Behavioral Health Triage Clinician

It’s important to understand the role of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) when discussing youth homelessness. In 1998, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente study identified a relationship between ACEs and negative health outcomes. There are two classifications of ACEs, family, and community. Family-level ACEs include emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, household domestic violence, household mental illness, household substance use, parental separation or divorce, and having an incarcerated parent or family member. The second classification, Community level ACEs, includes economic hardship, community violence, bullying, foster care, and discrimination. Youth experiencing homelessness are likely to have higher ACEs and are likely to be further traumatized by the lack of stable, secure housing. As ACE scores increase so does the possibility of having social and health problems.

Homeless youth may be unaccompanied or living with families that are homeless. Youth living in homeless families often have caregivers who also have high ACEs. Among children living in homeless families, the top contributing factors for homelessness are lack of affordable housing, poverty, and domestic violence. Unaccompanied youth homelessness contributes to mental illness, substance abuse, and lack of affordable housing. Other contributing factors of youth homelessness include aging out of foster care or juvenile justice systems, being Hispanic or black, and being a single parent.

Strategies to prevent high ACEs include strengthening economic familial support, creating social norms that protect against violence and adversity, ensuring a strong start for children, teaching skills, connecting youth to caring adults and activities, and intervening to lessen immediate and long-term harms. Teen Health Connection screens patients new to our practice and during each annual physical exam in order to help identify the unique needs of our patients and directs families to community resources when necessary.

Homelessness Resources: Youth | SAMHSA
Homeless Children and Youth: Causes and Consequences – NCCP
Welcome – Mecklenburg County – Housing & Homelessness Dashboard (
ACEs Can Be Prevented (
National Network to End Family Homelessness
Initiative of the Bassuk Center on Homelessness and Vulnerable Children and Youth