Homelessness and Education Systems Can Work Together to Improve Youth Outcomes

Homelessness and housing instability interfere with young people’s abilities and opportunities to stay in school and achieve their educational aspirations. This brief highlights opportunities for the education and homelessness systems to work together to ensure that youth are supported in their living situations, their educational experiences, and their career pursuits. The brief is the ninth in a series of briefs from Voices of Youth Count.

What We Did

Researchers drew upon survey data collected from young people experiencing homelessness in 22 counties throughout the U.S. They also conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with 215 young people experiencing homelessness in five communities.

What We Found

  • The risk factors for homelessness overlap with the risk factors for school dropout.
  • Early family instability and socioeconomic constraints pose challenges to both housing stability and educational attainment.
  • Youth who do not have a high school diploma or a GED face a greater risk of experiencing homelessness.
  • Youth who experience homelessness are less likely to attend college. Even when they do attend college, many still struggle with homelessness.
  • Opportunities for young people to advance their education and economic standing may depend on local community resources.
  • Young people need more information about educational resources from youth and homelessness services providers.


What It Means

Exploring educational interests and advancing toward a career are crucial developmental tasks of adolescence and early adulthood. Homelessness prevents too many young people from achieving these milestones. This research highlights the need for policies and public systems to address the interdependent relationship between homelessness and educational attainment. There are critical opportunities for the homelessness and education systems to work together to improve youth outcomes. Secondary schools and higher education institutions can support youth experiencing homelessness by better identifying young people at risk of experiencing homelessness before they reach a crisis. Youth experiencing homelessness will also be better assisted by having a single point of contact at educational institutions. Together, these recommendations may strengthen partnerships between systems to better serve youth experiencing homelessness.

Recommended Citation
Kull, M. A., Morton, M. H., Patel, S., Curry, S., & Carreon, E. (2019). Missed opportunities: Education among youth and young adults experiencing homelessness in America. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
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