Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs Change Lives

The help that is available to a homeless youth depends on their age, the housing and services available to them in their community, and their knowledge of what is available and how to access it.  There is no mandate to provide housing and services to homeless youth in America.

If there is a homeless youth program in their area, they may be able to access:

  • Food, hygiene products and referrals for services through street outreach services
  • Crisis intervention services, housing and family-based interventions for 21 days if they are under the age of 18
  • Housing for up to 21 months with youth-appropriate supportive services for youth ages 16 to 22 years old

If you or a young person you know is experiencing homelessness, is at risk of becoming homeless, is thinking about running away from home or has a parent or guardian who has threatened to kick him or her out: call, chat online, or text with an expert who can help you or the person you know access available resources.

Call: 1-800-RUNAWAY
Text: 66008

A list of current Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) grantees is available through this map.  However, because these federal resources are very limited, this map does not depict every program available to homeless youth in America, just the programs that receive this particular federal funding stream.

Public Schools

School is the place where homeless youth can obtain the skills that they will need to avoid poverty and homelessness as adults. Yet high mobility, precarious living conditions, and severe poverty combine to present significant educational barriers. Many homeless youth lack basic supplies and a reasonable environment in which to do homework.

If they are school-aged, unaccompanied homeless youth can receive help with transportation, school supplies, school meals, educational supports and other supports from the McKinney-Vento Liaison in their school. Every school district in the country is required by law to designate a homeless liaison. The best way to find local contact information is to contact the McKinney-Vento State Coordinator at

It is important to share this knowledge because many young people do not know they have the right to enroll and participate in school, which is compounded by their fear of system-involvement. This results in many disconnected youth avoiding places where they can get access to the resources they need.

For Jessica, like many young people, it was difficult to get off the streets. “The hardest thing is basically just getting around and trying to find a job ’cause it’s hard to get a job without an address. If you don’t have somebody’s address that you can use and say ‘I live here’ quote, unquote, then they look at your application and they’re like ‘no’.”

A case manager from a Street Outreach program referred Jessica to a youth transitional living program where she established goals: “to stay in stable housing and try to finish my GED. I’m doing that through the program’s school. It’s free, which is good. I have some health goals too.”

This homeless youth program provided Jessica with “more focus and more stability, which is a very important thing to have. If you get those, then you can do everything else that you want.” Jessica says that if she hadn’t found the program she would still be out on the streets. Her long-term plan is to go to college and study sociology. “I want to help people the way they’ve helped me.”

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Aaron was sleeping on the streets and a Street Outreach worker started talking to him, gave him a meal to eat, and information about a runaway and homeless youth shelter. Aaron never felt safe on the streets and he decided to visit the program the next day. Aaron was able to enter a transitional living program for youth where he felt safe for the first time in years and was able to achieve a GED. Aaron is in college where he is studying to become a teacher.

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Charlene received transitional living assistance from a runaway and homeless youth program where a case manager helped her find an apartment and pay her rent until she was stabilized. She received assistance in obtaining furniture and food, creating a budget, and managing her money. She has earned her GED and is working two jobs to live independently.

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