Youth of Color Disproportionately Impacted by Housing Instability

This brief consolidates Chapin Hall research about race as a factor in the likelihood that teens and young adults will experience housing instability. It explores the racial disproportionality among youth experiencing homelessness and provides recommendations for improving services to advance racial equity.

What We Did

We reviewed six recent Chapin Hall reports about young people facing housing instability and compiled the findings that pertain to youth of color. Analyzing these findings, we developed recommendations for the field to more effectively prevent and address homelessness among youth of color.

What We Found

  • The risks of homelessness and housing instability are not equally shared among young people; Black and Hispanic youth are at greatest risk.
  • Black and Hispanic young people spend longer periods of time homeless than their White, non-Hispanic counterparts, increasing their risk of re-entering homelessness after exiting.
  • The challenge of youth homelessness and housing instability is more pronounced among BIPOC youth ages 13 to 25, with 11% of American Indian and Alaskan Indian youth experiencing homelessness during a year, 7% of Black youth, and 7% of Hispanic youth relative to 4% of White, non-Hispanic youth.
  • The intersection of different marginalized identities compounds inequities among youth of color, with Black youth identifying as LGBTQ experiencing especially high rates of homelessness and adversity.
  • During the pandemic, Black young adults in single adult households faced especially high housing insecurity. Among respondents in single adult households, Hispanic young adults were about twice as likely, and Black young adults almost three times as likely, as White young adults to have little or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent.

What It Means

Housing instability is disproportionately experienced by youth of color, creating another obstacle to their success in life. Analysis of this racial inequity points to potential systemic remedies. We recommend that runaway and youth homelessness programs:

  • Partner with and support Black and Hispanic young people to co-create new programs, services, and strategies to reduce housing insecurity and prevent youth homelessness.
  • Develop street outreach programs around young people’s fluid housing situations over time—not just based on where they were last.
  • Design programs and deliver services that center the experiences of youth of color with intersecting marginalized identities to meet immediate needs and support appropriate services.
  • Build in opportunities to better understand past familial traumas and adversities to inform a more tailored approach to service delivery.

And finally, those working in the youth homelessness field should collect better data to identify opportunities for addressing racial inequities. This includes, for example, collecting demographic information when assessing the effectiveness of specific programs so that we can see if they lead to good outcomes for all youth.

Recommended Citation
Berger Gonzalez, S., Morton, M., Patel, S., & Samuels, B. (2021). Centering racial equity in youth homelessness. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

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