Research Framework

The State Index scores each jurisdiction’s steps towards preventing and ending youth homelessness by tracking relevant metrics across the following categories: Right to Housing, Shifting Power in Housing, Maintaining Housing, Accessibility of Housing, Habitability of Housing, Autonomy, Income, Health, Education, Anti-Oppression, Priority Level, and Homelessness Services (coming soon). It also pulls in data around child welfare systems, juvenile and criminal legal systems, election laws and policies, revenue and progressive taxation, and immigration policy.

This year, we focused on transforming and updating the Index to re-center it on the experiences, needs, and policy demands of unhoused youth & young adults (YYA) as they navigate the webs of systems and laws that currently affect their lives. Because we have shifted the State Index’s focus from harm reduction to transformative change, some jurisdictions will have lower scores than years past. This is intended to encourage them. Jurisdictions should not be discouraged if they have a lower score, but instead be motivated by the opportunity to implement policies that will prevent and end youth homelessness.

Theory of Change

We developed a new scoring system based on A Way Home America’s New Deal to End Youth Homelessness (New Deal) roadmap for radically reimagining the country’s major systems serving YYA. Using the New Deal and NHLC Youth Team’s theory of change principles, we created a rubric that could account for policies that range from malicious to transformative. The principles are as follows:


Youth homelessness is largely a housing problem and solving it will require the decommodification of most housing, along with the creation of new housing supply and care for our current supply.

Any effective advocacy efforts need to diminish rather than strengthen the systems we’re trying to overcome, such as classism, capitalism, racism, the commodification of housing and healthcare, public benefits systems, child welfare systems, and juvenile or criminal legal systems.

Laws that do not balance respect for and acknowledgement of a young person’s autonomy with their need for care are counterproductive in preventing youth homelessness.

Impoverishment and oppression are drivers of youth homelessness. Because these systems work to prop each other up, we must get rid of all of them in order to get rid of any one of them.

Scoring Definitions