Jan. 3, 2022 – Others, like Ruby, were booted out when they became pregnant. “Since coming to Covenant House six months ago, they’ve helped me with food, clothing, diapers for my son and post-natal care,” she says. “They even helped me finish high school.”

Not surprisingly, all three say that they are extremely grateful to have a roof over their heads, regular meals, and counseling and other services — supports they know many homeless teens are unable to access.

The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that 700,000 of the nation’s 4.2 million homeless youth are unaccompanied by a parent or guardian: 1 in 10 young adults between 18 and 25, and one in 30 aged 13 to 17. More than a quarter (27 percent) identify as queer, with LGBTQIA+ youth of color experiencing higher rates of homelessness than other populations. 

What’s more, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than half of unaccompanied homeless youth are under 18 and sleep outside, in a car or in another place not meant for human habitation.

Sonia Pitzi, coordinator of Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness in eight Pennsylvania counties, works to keep homeless children and teens in school — whether they are living with their families in a shelter or motel, or are on their own. She’s done this work since 1995. This year, she reports that she’s assisting 17 unaccompanied minors. “Four [youths] are living in storage units and five in an abandoned building that has water but no heat. The other eight are couch surfing but have temporary places to sleep every night of the week,” she told Truthout.