In 2018, up to 10,000 young people experience homelessness in Los Angeles. On a given night the majority of young people experiencing homelessness are unsheltered. Young people often have compounding factors contributing to their experiences of homelessness, including fragile social networks, disruption from family, significant early life trauma, mental illness, criminalization, and discrimination. In fact, research shows that the relative risk of experiencing homelessness is 83% higher for African American youth, 33% higher for Latinx youth, and 120% more likely for LGBT+ youth.
To address homelessness experienced by young people, Los Angeles needs to sufficiently invest in age-specific resources. Based on our collective experience in providing services for young people experiencing homelessness in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, we know that the vulnerabilities of this population are unique and therefore require specific intervention and services. Every year hundreds of young people graduate from the youth system to the adult system— a system that is overburdened, resource strained and ill-equipped to serve 26-year-olds. By doing that we guarantee many young people a lifelong experience of homelessness. 1 in 5 adults in Permanent Supportive Housing in Los Angeles had their first experience of homelessness before the age of 25. Therefore, investing in upstream solutions has an impact beyond young people experiencing homelessness. Additionally, boosting investment in addressing youth homelessness is particularly crucial at this time, as young homelessness increased 24% from 2018 to 2019 in Los Angeles. As we saw with veterans experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles if adequate resources are specifically targeted towards addressing the unique needs of a group of people experiencing homelessness, measurable and significant progress can be made.
Los Angeles needs to adopt a multifaceted adaptive housing systems response because there are no one-size-fits-all housing models for youth and young adults. In fact, having a range of housing options that work in conjunction with one another is important to meet the needs of young people who may need different types or levels of support to gain and maintain stable housing. Having a multifaceted housing response that contains a range of evidence-based models supports adolescent and young adult development and can prioritize the needs of specific underserved youth populations (including youth who are pregnant and/or parenting, system-involved, and/or LGBT+, etc.). Reasons for youth homelessness include inadequate early prevention services, poverty, racism, homophobia, transphobia, a lack of adequate support services, and insufficient investment to specifically address youth homelessness all contribute to the prevalence of youth homelessness in Los Angeles.