Homeless Youth and the Law

Homeless Youth and the Law Initiative

Building on the success of its 2009 publication “Runaway and Homeless Youth and the Law: Model State Statutes,” the Commission has developed a set of advocacy resources and facilitated learning opportunities for the legal community and organizations and individuals working with homeless youth.  The initiative will feature:  guidance for states on model statutes pertaining to homeless youth (ongoing); training sessions for lawyers (ongoing); a guidance manual on effective case law addressing the legal issues related to homeless youth (FY 2011-2012); and articles on homeless youth and the law for publication in peer-reviewed publications and on appropriate organization Web sites (FY 2011-2012 and FY 2012-2013).

Why the need for the initiative? Youth homelessness is disturbingly common, yet homeless youth remain a largely invisible segment of the homeless population.  Although the prevalence of youth homelessness is difficult to measure, researchers estimate that nearly eight percent of youth experience homelessness.  With at least one million youth on the streets and in shelter—and thousands more leaving the juvenile justice system, mental health facilities, and the foster care system every year—the problem of youth homelessness continues to grow.  Homeless youth often have special legal problems that serve as barriers to stable housing and desperately needed services.  Lawyers can and should play a critical role in addressing youth homelessness, and this initiative will both inspire and equip lawyers to advocate on behalf of this highly vulnerable population.

Framing State and Local Advocacy to End Youth Homelessness: Statutes and Legislative Strategies

The national movement to end youth homelessness is often focused on federal policy and funding. However, much of the work conducted by community nonprofits and advocates to support homeless youth are impacted by local or state laws and regulations. The ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty wishes to support local regions or states in establishing a public policy initiative focused on model state statutes and local policy advocacy.

As discussed in “Runaway and Homeless Youth and the Law: Model State Statutes,” model state statutes address a wide spectrum of issues; local advocates must choose their focus, and the Commission is equipped to facilitate trainings and discussions related to the following issues:

  • Runaway and Homeless Youth Act
  • Youth Housing
  • Juvenile Justice Reentry Practices
  • Transitioning from Foster Care Policies
  • Family Law
  • Access to Health Care
  • LGBT Youth Civil Rights Protections