Youth homelessness affects over 1,500 youth in King County every day.

In 2015, former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declared homelessness a state of emergency across the city, in partial response to an annual 20% increase of the homeless population over the prior three years. Youth make up a significant portion of these numbers; however, services available to youth are notably fewer than those available to other demographics experiencing homelessness.

The Causes

Homeless youth find themselves on the streets for a number of complex reasons often outside their control, contrary to common stereotypes.

The Demographics

Statistics show that certain minority demographics are over-represented among homeless youth, especially among youth of color and who identify as LGBTQ.

The Effects

Though traumatic at any age, homelessness is especially damaging for youth living on the streets during crucial stages of development.

The Causes of Youth Homelessness

A common misconception is that youth on the streets are rebellious, headstrong runaways. The truth is that many youth leave home as a means of survival due to physical or sexual abuse. Others are forced to leave because of rifts between step-parents and children or parents who suffer from substance abuse problems. Youth often age out of foster care or leave juvenile corrections with no place to go. Left with little choice, these young people leave dangerous homes for dangerous streets and must figure out how to survive with almost no resources or relationships.

Nationally, over one in four youth who come out to their parents as LGBTQ are thrown out of their home. 33% of youth on the streets in King County identify as LGBTQ.

Roughly one in three youth on the streets in King County has been involved in foster care, sometimes living in 20+ homes by age 18.

43% of youth and young adults in King County report a history of domestic violence or abuse, and more frequently cite this abuse as the primary cause of homelessness than other homeless demographic groups.

The Demographics of Youth Homelessness

While nearly every demographic is present to some degree, two specific groups are noticeably over-represented among homeless youth populations both nationally and locally.

Thirty-three percent of the homeless and unstably housed young people surveyed in King County earlier this year identified as LGBTQ, according to the 2018 Count Us In Report.


percent of homeless youth in Seattle

identify as LGBTQ


percent of homeless youth accessing services

are youth of color

According to the same report, youth of color represent approximately 75% of homeless youths, despite people of color only accounting for 29% of King County’s total population.

13% of homeless youth report a disability.

43% do not have a high school diploma.

Average income at time of entry into the system is $196.

The 2017 Count Us In Report also found that of 1,518 homeless and unstably housed youth and young adults identified:


percent were under age 18


percent were female


percent were male


percent were unsheltered

The Effects of Youth Homelessness

Being homeless has repercussions that can last well beyond a transition into sustainability. The more time a young person spends without a stable home, the more difficult success becomes in almost every area of their life, even after they’ve left the streets.


The streets make youth more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, increasing their risk of disease, injury, and death. Nationally, 19% of homeless youth have been victims of trafficking.


Homeless youth are 2.5x more likely to be arrested as adults when compared to their stably housed peers.


Homeless youth report higher rates of mental health symptoms, including depression, PTSD, and anxiety, resulting in increased risk for suicide attempts.

Learn how New Horizons partners with these young people on their journey off the streets.

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