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Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adult Homelessness

Across the United States, there are an estimated 1.7 million – 4.2 million unaccompanied youth who are experiencing homelessness, but figures are imprecise (See National Network for Youth and Chapin Hall data, as well as Boston/Suffolk County data: one-page overview and in-depth report from Chapin Hall). Fall 2013 data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), released in 2014, estimated that there were 4,085 students in Massachusetts public high schools who were experiencing homelessness and not in the custody of their parent or legal guardian. (Additional data: Youth Risk Behavior Survey data from ESE; 2015-2016 school year data from ESE on unaccompanied youth and other students experiencing homelessness directly identified by school districts.) Additional efforts are underway to get a more accurate count of the full extent of unaccompanied youth homelessness in the Commonwealth, notably through the work of the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (see below for more details.)

Since 2010, the Coalition has convened a Task Force on Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness and organized more broadly in the community to bring together providers, advocates, and youth to work together to improve and expand housing and services for unaccompanied youth. The Coalition was the lead organization behind passage of the Commonwealth’s landmark youth homelessness law, An Act promoting housing and support services to unaccompanied homeless youths (Chapter 450 of the Acts of 2014, now Chapter 6A, Sections 16W and 16X of the Massachusetts General Laws). The legislation, passed by the Legislature in December 2014 and signed into law by former Governor Deval Patrick in January 2015, is creating increased housing opportunities and expand support services for youth and young adults age 24 and younger who are experiencing homelessness outside the custody or care of a parent or guardian. The law also puts the Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth into state statue, and strengthens the state’s planning processes on youth homelessness issues. For fiscal year 2016, the first year the line item was funded, the Legislature allocated $2 million to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to implement the law via state budget line item 4000-0007, and unanimously overrode Governor Baker’s veto of the funding in July 2015. For more background on that phase of the campaign, see the Coalition’s veto override campaign letter to Legislative Leadership and press release). For FY’20, the line item is funded at $5 million, with funding distributed to ten regional youth-serving agencies: Barnstable County Department of Human Services, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Catholic Social Services, City of Springfield, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Community Teamwork, Father Bill’s & MainSpring, L.U.K. Crisis Center, Inc., Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, and South Middlesex Opportunity Council. See a map of these service providers.


FY’20 Policy Campaigns with and for Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adults:

For fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020), the Coalition is focused on a variety of policy initiatives directly and indirectly related to unaccompanied youth, including but not limited to our campaigns to: 

Please see our Present Policy Campaign page for more details.

The Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth:

The Coalition also has been a driving force behind the creation and momentum of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (now known as the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth, but just as special!) The FY’13 budget included key language from the bill to establish a special statewide commission on unaccompanied youth. Click here to see the Coalition’s press release on passage of budget language to establish the special commission and here to see the text of the budget language, as signed into law. The commission’s work began in December 2012, under the Administration of Governor Deval Patrick, continuing until January 2015. The Commission officially reconvened under the Administration of Governor Charlie Baker in October 2015. The Commission launched its own web page in June 2019.

Recent Commission reports and data:

youth count 2019 cover

Previous Commission reports and data:

youth count 2018 report cover january 2019

massachusetts youth count 2017 report cover

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See our Taking Action page to learn more about you can help us to ensure that youth, young adults, and everyone in Massachusetts has a place to call home.