Homeless Youth: Post-Secondary Support and Success


Garet Fryar, Policy Research Assistant

For many young people, their roadmap for success includes graduating from high school, advancing to college, and getting a job. For most homeless youth, however, the roadmap isn’t as clear.

In my last blog post, I discussed who the homeless youth in America are and the general challenges they must overcome. However, what happens to homeless youth after they graduate from high school or earn an equivalent degree, and lose many of the support systems that existed?

Homeless youth can benefit from the services provided through public schools. However, once youth graduate high school or earn an equivalent degree, it can be difficult for them to continue their education. One of the first obstacles that homeless youth face once they complete their secondary education is the loss of attentive and helpful teachers, local homeless liaisons, or other school staff.

The Homestretch (trailer) from spargel productions on Vimeo.

“During the 2012-2013 school year there were 1,258,182 homeless students enrolled in school, of which 317,081 were in high school and at least 62,890 were unaccompanied youth. The needs of these students can be met through a network of post-secondary support programs.”

Connections to Opportunities through Transitional Living Programs

Transitional living programs can help homeless youth with their long term planning. With homeless student numbers increasing it can be difficult for school advisors and mentors to remain a source of support once the youth graduates. However, transitional living programs (TLP) offer youth not only a safe place to live but also caring adults who can continue to guide youth towards a stable and successful life. There are an estimated 150,000 young adults, without children, ages 18 to 24 who are homeless and using the single adult housing system, including TLPs. Transitional living programs, such as Teen Living Programs in Chicago, IL featured in the video above, are successful models to help homeless youth become more independent and thrive as adults.

Transitional living programs that connect youth to other transitional programs benefit homeless youth who would have more difficulty locating these resources. Service work programs, such as AmeriCorps and their City Year program, teach youth the value of helping others while also paying them for their work. Career training opportunities like Year Up provide youth with life-long work and professional development skills.

Post-Secondary Housing Needs

College and university dormitories are typically closed during holiday breaks, which is a huge problem for homeless youth attending universities. However, there are schools that allow youth to stay on campus year-round, alleviating their housing worries at winter and summer break. Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Georgia offers year-round housing in addition to their Campus Awareness, Resource & Empowerment (CARE) Center for homeless students. Other schools, like the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), are knitting on-campus and off-campus resources together through groups like the Economic Crisis Response (ECR) Team. UCLA’s ECR Team works hard to help self-identified students stay in school by providing supports from every day necessities to in depth financial counseling.

National Network of Support

Georgia, where KSU is located, is one of many states that is part of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth’s (NAEHCY) State Higher Education Networks. NAEHCY provides technical assistance, training, and facilitation to help their network develop a statewide strategy for homeless youth in higher education. The systems coordination of NAECHY’s diverse stakeholders allows members to collaborate, identify, and address barriers to higher education access, retention, and success for homeless youth.

Youth Success

Homeless youth that participate in these transitional training and education programs voice their happiness and feelings of accomplishment from different perspectives that outline why these programs are so important to their success.

“City Year has by far been the best experience of my life…What I’ve gained, it’s an intangible skill but I think it’s most applicable to anything I do after City Year – its grit.” – Hope

“Growing up in a first generation family meant that my parents were not able to give my siblings and me advice on what kinds of colleges or careers to look into…Without Year Up, I would still have been struggling to help my family financially and going to school without a set career path. The program has helped me outline my future goals.” – Consuelo Huerta

November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, National Runaway Prevention Month, and this year National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week is from November 15th to 23rd.

Garet Fryar is the Policy Research Assistant at the American Youth Policy Forum.


The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.