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Youth homelessness is a disturbingly common, yet largely invisible segment of the homeless population. In the United States, over a half million children live on the streets.  Without access to legal representation, they face barriers to education, housing, healthcare and a host of other services. Lawyers can play a critical role in addressing youth homelessness. The American Bar Association supports this role with training and resources for lawyers to advocate on behalf of this highly vulnerable population. 

“With the assistance of our incredible ABA staff and volunteers, we will ensure that our volunteer lawyers have the information they need to address the basic legal issues of this population.” 

ABA President Hilarie Bass


Centralized resources allow lawyers to better assist homeless youth

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.

Homeless Youth Legal Network seeks to:

  • 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
  • Develop and sustain a network of law and policy experts through the compilation of a directory, the creation of an online discussion group and quarterly conference calls
  • Staff a national legal services hotline for homeless youth that is equipped to triage and direct callers to the appropriate providers in their community
  • Provide technical assistance to lawyers and conduct programming for lawyers on policy issues as well as substantive legal issues


Did you know:

  • Almost 40% of the homeless in the United States are under 18.
  • 57% of homeless youth spend at least one day every month without food.
  • According to a study of youth in shelters, nearly 50% reported intense conflict or physical harm by a family member as a major contributing factor to their homelessness.
  • More than 25% of former foster children become homeless within two to four years of leaving the system.

Statistics courtesy of Covenant House, a non-profit serving homeless youth for over 40 years


Runaway and Homeless Youth and the Law: Model State Statutes– This free e-book is the result of a nearly two-year project involving attorneys and youth experts who are determined to end youth homelessness and make a difference in their communities.  The model laws are focused on topics ranging from health and housing to public benefits and access to legal services.