New Index Ranks State Efforts to Alleviate Youth Homelessness

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The research findings suggest it’s an area where many states have room for improvement.

Most states are falling short when it comes to preventing and ending youth homelessness, according to a new study.

The National Homelessness Law Center and True Colors United, a nonprofit that focuses on homelessness among LGBTQ young people, released their third annual State Index on Youth Homelessness report this week. It ranks states based on their efforts to alleviate homelessness among people ages 12 to 18.

Twenty-seven states scored 50 or fewer points out of a possible 100 on the index and only six states—Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, New York and Maine—along with the District of Columbia scored over 70 points. The District was the top performer on the index with 90 points.

North Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina were among the states with the lowest scores.

"A close look at the results of the index show that a majority of states are failing youth experiencing homelessness," the report says.

It cites estimates that indicate one in 30 American youths ages 13 to 17 and one in 10 young people ages 18 to 25 experience some form of homelessness each year.

Brandy Ryan, a staff attorney at the Law Center and one of the report authors, noted that homeless young people face barriers to shelter, health care, and services even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Disasters like Covid-19 exacerbate those inequities and make our work that much more critical," Ryan added.

The report points out that among youth and young adults, LGBTQ people continue to experience homelessness at significantly higher rates than others—with an estimated 40% of youth experiencing homelessness self-identifying as LGBTQ.

Black and Latino young people also make up a disproportionate share of the homeless youth population, according to the report.

The study's authors say that their research should serve as a guide for policymakers and advocates working to improve systems and services that are geared toward ending and preventing youth homelessness.

Scores for the index are based on state efforts in a number of areas.

For example, ensuring support and services for homeless youth; preventing young people from coming into contact with the criminal justice and juvenile legal systems; and giving unaccompanied homeless youth the chance to seek legal independence.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Bill Lucia is an editor for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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