Although homelessness among youth is a major social issue in the United States, most of the research conducted during the past 20 years has focused on homelessness among adults. The relatively few studies of homelessness among youth are difficult to compare and use as bases for general conclusions because they:
- Use varying definitions of “homelessness” and “youth;”
- Include different populations (e.g., street vs. shelter youth) and age ranges;
- Involve small sample sizes; and
- Make limited use of strategies that would allow comparisons with housed youth.
Studies often focus on individual vulnerabilities rather than social and environmental factors that contribute to homelessness among youth, making it difficult to design public policies to address this issue (Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007). However, researchers have been able to identify many commonalities among youth who are homeless that help service providers understand their characteristics, experiences, and needs. These findings provide a basis for interventions that support youth at risk for homelessness or those who are currently homeless, meeting their need for a safe bridge into life as young adults.