New federal study provides insights on homeless youth

More than half of homeless youth surveyed for a new federal study became homeless for their first time after a parent or caregiver asked them to leave.

The study by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln focused on 873 youth, ages 14 to 21, in 11 cities, including Minneapolis. It was designed to increase the federal government’s understanding of what services young people need when they are experiencing homelessness.

On average, youth spent two years living on the streets. More than 60 percent also reported being raped, assaulted or robbed while homeless.

Nearly 30 percent of the study participants identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual and nearly 7 percent identified as transgender.

Rafael Lopez, commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said data collected during the study will help federal officials work with local agencies on efforts to end youth homelessness.

“It is unacceptable for any youth to become homeless in America,” he said. “The findings of this study will help us more effectively target out street outreach programs so that we can help our youth receive the help they need, when they need it most. With data detailing the problem in cities across our country, we can work with local agencies to end youth homelessness.”

The study found that on average, youth first became homeless at the age of 15 and about half had been in foster care. Youth with a foster care history experienced homelessness for longer periods than other youth — about 27.5 months compared to 19.3 months for youth who hadn’t spent time in foster care.

In Minnesota, youth on their own age 24 and younger make up 16 percent of the homeless population, according to the most recent Wilder Research study.