On a regular basis, children and youth report that school is a home to them – a place where they see the same faces, sit in the same seat, and can put their hearts and minds into pursuits that ease their daily troubles. In school, students gain the skills and support needed to avoid poverty and homelessness as adults.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

Setting the Context

Unaccompanied homeless youth are youth experiencing homelessness while not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. It is estimated that 1.6 to 1.7 million youth experience homelessness on their own each year.  These youth live in a variety of unsafe, temporary situations, including cars, parks, the homes of other people, shelters, and motels. Most of these young people have left home due to severe family dysfunction, including abuse and neglect. Studies have found that 20-40% of unaccompanied homeless youth were abused sexually in their homes, while 40-60% were abused physically.  Over two-thirds of unaccompanied homeless youth report that at least one of their parents abuses drugs or alcohol.  20-40% of unaccompanied homeless youth have been thrown out of their homes because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or pregnant.

Learn more below about educational and other supports available to unaccompanied homeless youth.

NAEHCY Resources

Housing + High School = Success. Schools and Communities Uniting to House Unaccompanied Youth
This publication provides a step-by-step guide and practical tools to create four different temporary housing models for unaccompanied youth: host homes; group homes; independent living; and emergency shelters. The steps are designed to give readers tools to establish these programs in their communities and include sample youth applications, host home applications, powers of attorney, parental consent forms, confidentiality notices, job descriptions, posters, flyers, Power Point presentations, data collection tools, and other useful forms and documents.

Immigration and Schools: Supporting Success for Undocumented Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
Attending school and securing lawful status in the United States are two keys to safety and security for undocumented unaccompanied homeless youth. This brief, co-authored by NAEHCY and Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), is designed for young people, immigration attorneys and advocates, McKinney-Vento liaisons, and other educators. It provides information about federal laws that provide the means for undocumented unaccompanied youth who are homeless to attend school and address their immigration status.

Making State Laws Work for Unaccompanied Youth: A How-To Manual and Tools for Creating State Laws and Policies to Support Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Under Age 18
McKinney-Vento liaisons, youth service providers, attorneys and others work to assist unaccompanied homeless youth whose parents are not capable of supporting their children’s best interests or who purposefully act against those best interests. However, state and federal laws often do not provide youth or their advocates with the legal tools they need. This publication offers background on unaccompanied homeless youth, explains their legal status under state and federal law, and provides tools to help youth and advocates create state and local laws and policies to support unaccompanied homeless youth.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Toolkits
NAEHCY is pleased to offer this set of three unaccompanied homeless youth toolkits. Each toolkit, designed with a specific audience in mind, contains a wealth of information about supporting unaccompanied youth in school and out, with a special focus on helping unaccompanied youth complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) when applying for aid for higher education. A toolkit is available for each of the following audiences:

Using What We Know: Supporting the Education of Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
This report presents seven principles for educational success for unaccompanied youth and detailed, practical strategies to implement those principles in schools and communities. Distilled from interviews with over one hundred NAEHCY members from across the country, each principle is based on what we know as educators and advocates dedicated to the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness: that to confront the educational challenges of unaccompanied young people, we must confront homelessness.

Other Resources

National Center for Homeless Education
The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) serves as the information and technical assistance center for the U.S. Department of Education's Education for Homeless Children and Youth program.
Visit NCHE's Unaccompanied Homeless Youth resources webpage

U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
On June 12, 2012, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) unveiled a framework for ending youth homelessness. The framework will be adopted as part of the Administration’s federal strategic plan on homelessness, which sets a goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020. Learn more about the USICH Framework for Ending Youth Homelessness and NAEHCY's response to the Framework.

NAEHCY 2015 Conference
Phoenix, AZ | November 15-17
NAEHCY Higher Education Podcasts
Brief audio lessons related to higher education access and success for homeless youth
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