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Homeless Youth and the Law


The American Bar Association has committed funds to support the development and implementation of a national Homeless Youth Legal Network (HYLN) aimed at increasing connectivity and capacity. Through this program’s innovative two-pronged legislative advocacy and legal services initiative, unaccompanied homeless youth—including those transitioning from the child welfare and juvenile justice systems—will benefit from greater legal protection, improved outcomes, and access to justice.

The HYLN will:

  • Promote the coordination and implementation of legal and employment clinics for homeless and transitioning youth at pilot sites as well as through technical assistance to other communities;
  • Evaluate through a collection of data and surveys the number and demographic information of youth utilizing the pilot sites, as well as their outcomes and level of satisfaction with services;
  • Develop and sustain a Network of law and policy experts through the compilation of a directory and the creation of a listserv and quarterly conference calls;
  • Staff a national legal services hotline for homeless youth and their providers that is equipped to triage and direct callers to the appropriate legal services provider in their community through the Network;
  • Develop resources to promote best practices and model principles;
  • Provide technical assistance to lawyers and advocates; and,
  • Conduct trainings and webinars for lawyers and advocates on policy issues as well as substantive legal issues.

The ABA Commission on Homelessness & Poverty invites your participation as we begin developing a road map to design and implement the proposed HYLN.  For more information on this initiative, please contact Kelly Russo at (202) 662-1699 or [email protected]


Download the Runaway and Homeless Youth and the Law: Model State Statutes E-Book.

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

Educating Children Without Housing: A Primer on Legal Requirements and Implementation Strategies for Educators, Advocates and Policymakers, 5th Edition

The Role of Safe and Stable Housing in Preventing Exposure to Violence for Unaccompanied Youth

Changing Lives: Lawyers Fighting for Children

Commission members include lawyers and policy experts that offer their time and expertise pro bono. Travel expenses are required for in-person trainings.

Commission members are equipped to provide the following training and technical assistance:

  • Training on Model State Statutes to support homeless youth
  • Technical assistance to local organizations
  • Written materials
  • Assistance with start-up dialogues
  • Co-hosting and facilitating community planning meetings
  • Legislative strategy

For more information, please contact Kelly Russo at (202) 662-1699 or [email protected]