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This year, we’ve reformed the Index to focus on unhoused youth and young adults (YYA), aligning it with their experiences and policy needs. Shifting from harm reduction to transformative change, some jurisdictions may see lower scores than before. This is a deliberate strategy, not a setback. Lower scores should motivate, not discourage, jurisdictions. They present an opportunity to adopt policies that effectively tackle and prevent youth homelessness, fostering meaningful progress.

No Children Enter Homelessness from State/Territorial Systems

  • Children & family services
  • Right to housing

The jurisdiction ensures that children do not exit state/territory systems into homelessness

No person, youth or otherwise, should exit public systems of care and find themselves without safe and adequate housing. Jurisdictions should ensure that all systems-impacted persons are connected with appropriate housing supports and services, without bureaucratic barriers. This includes children and young adults exiting the foster care system, mental or behavioral health systems, and juvenile or criminal legal systems.

“People are unaware of aging out – steps should be taken with people that are close to transitional age to make sure they are ready. They can get cut off from their friends and thrown into the adult system. It’s already hard enough to connect with service providers, we should make sure that when people are of transitional age they are prepared and educated.”CiCi Williams

In some jurisdictions, the definition of “children” may include young people older than 18.

Key Metric Score Type of Policy Description
1.5 Transformative Edge Jurisdiction law prohibits exits from systems to homelessness for children
1.0 Reform Jurisdiction law requires ongoing follow up re: housing stability of children existing systems
0.5 Harm Reduction Jurisdiction law requires discharge planning that specifically addresses housing for children exiting systems
0.0 Status Quo No laws found
No Data No Data No Data

Cite: National Homelessness Law Center and True Colors United. ", No Children Enter Homelessness from State/Territorial Systems" Accessed: June 22, 2024.

Right to Housing

The Index is centered around the fundamental human right to housing. A right to housing is the guarantee that every youth and young adult can access and maintain safe and habitable housing. The elements of a right to housing are:

  1. Security of tenure;
  2. Availability of services;
  3. Affordability;
  4. Accessibility;
  5. Habitability;
  6. Location;
  7. Cultural adequacy. 

“There should always be somewhere for everybody to go. We all should be able to have the housing we need. It shouldn’t be something that you HOPE to get, it should be a given. Build more shelters, build more housing.”K. Livingston

Children and Family Services

Child welfare systems have the potential to play a critical role in ending and preventing youth homelessness. In most states, child welfare systems are required to “provide safety, permanency, and well-being of children by preventing youth and families from entering the system in the first place; provid[e] family- and community-based services for youth who enter the system; and [support] older youth in foster care in developing independence, self-sufficiency, and permanent and meaningful connections with caring adults.” American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty Homeless Youth Legal Network, Model State Statutes: Youth and Young Adult Homelessness (2023).

But unfortunately, many youth are reluctant to seek services through the foster care system due to bad experiences as children and those who do seek services as older teens are sometimes turned away. There is also the persistent issue of youth who exit the foster care system experiencing disproportionately high rates of homelessness. We need to reimagine these services to better center the needs of youth.

Model Statutes:

These maps are provided as legal information only and should not be used as legal advice for your specific situation. If you need help with any of the issues described on this website, please check out the Homeless Youth Legal Network (HYLN) directory OR email or call HYLN for help finding a referral to a lawyer.