No one grows up wanting to be homeless. The young people we meet are navigating life circumstances beyond their control—they all want the chance to stabilize and thrive.
We must understand the root causes of homelessness to undo them. Homelessness is not a natural phenomenon: it’s a social product. It’s the product a history rooted in the genocide of Indigenous people and the enslavement of Black people and perpetuated over centuries through institutionalized racism. It’s the product of a forty-year divestment in housing and social services and an investment in mass incarceration targeting Black and Brown communities. It’s the product of tax policies that privilege the wealthy and punish the poor.
Multiple, and often intersecting, forms of oppression lead to youth homelessness. Institutionalized racism within the overlapping systems that touch young people’s lives—education, child welfare, and juvenile detention—disproportionally push youth of color into a pipeline of homelessness. Click here to read our statement on anti-racism.
Of the 955 homeless youth and young adults in King County approximately:
3 of 5 are youth of color systemic racism denies people of color equal access to housing and income
1/3 have been in foster care and leave without a stable place to call home
1/4 are kicked out of their homes because of abuse, family, conflict, or poverty
1/3 identify as LGBTQ+ many are kicked out for coming out
1/2 are navigating mental health challenges with limited access to resources needed to thrive
How many young people are homeless?
Approximately 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness every year in the U.S. That amounts to one in ten young adults ages 18-25 and one in thirty youth ages 13-17. In King County, almost 1,1000 unaccompanied youth and young adults experience homelessness on any given night and around 70% of those young people sleep outside because of lack of shelter or housing.
Why is youth homelessness unique?
Youth homelessness is different than adult homelessness; young people often couch-surf between friends and family and many do not identify as homeless. Homeless young people are at higher risk of exploitation and trafficking on the streets: about one-fifth of homeless youth report being trafficked and over one-third experience violence or assault. Additionally, young people’s brains are still developing and don’t reach maturation until the age of 25. For this reason, the adult homeless system is often unsafe for young adults.
Why is your support important?
Every young person has potential. For youth in particular, there is an inherent curiosity about the future and the possibilities of life. We must leverage this opportunity. Almost 50% of homeless adults in our community experience homelessness for the first time before the age of 25. Helping young people move ahead is our most effective strategy to preventing and ending adult homelessness.
Your generous support helps young people achieve long-term stability. Click here to make a gift.