11 Effects of Teen Homelessness


Homelessness leaves affected youth with no permanent address, making it virtually impossible to attend school, obtain employment, secure food and shelter, and survive.

Physical Health

Due to poor diet, malnutrition and exposure, homeless youth are at greater risk of suffering from chronic health disorders like asthma and diabetes.

"Survival Sex"

Because of their age, many have few legal means by which they can earn enough money to meet basic needs. As a result, many homeless adolescents find that exchanging sex for food, clothing, and shelter is their only chance of survival on the streets. Reportedly, 1 in 4 youth have traded sex for survival means.


Homeless youth are at greater risk of contracting AIDS, HIV-related illnesses, and other STDs. It has been suggested that the rate of HIV prevalence for homeless youth may be as much as two to ten times higher than the rates reported for other samples of adolescents in the United States.

Mental Health

Homeless youth are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and suicide due to the increased exposure to violence while living on their own. About a third of all homeless youths will attempt suicide.


Youth are at increased risk of being physically and sexually abused while on the streets. This year, 1 in 260 runaways and homeless youths will die from assault, illness and suicide.

Substance Abuse

Homeless youth are more likely to use and abuse drugs, and to engage in other dangerous and illegal behaviors. According to national surveys, three quarters of street youths were using marijuana, a third were using hallucinogens and stimulants, and a quarter were using crack, other forms of cocaine, inhalants, and sedatives.

Juvenile Justice System

Homeless youth are more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system. They are frequently arrested for nuisance crimes like loitering and trespassing.


Homeless youth have a hard time attending school because of legal guardianship requirements, residency requirements, proper records, and lack of transportation so it is difficult for them to get an education. Studies report that as many as three quarters of homeless youth have or will drop out of school.

Lack of Self-Sufficiency Skills

Homeless youth typically lack many skills that are crucial to life in the adult world. For example, most lack the education and job skills needed to secure more than a low-wage, short-term jobs so it’s very difficult for them to become financially self-sufficient.

Learning Disabilities

According to one study, the number of homeless youth diagnosed with learning disabilities is double the rate of other children. Another study found that 28% of homeless youth have ADD.

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