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Students Experiencing Homelessness
Students Experiencing Homelessness in United States
United States

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Students Experiencing Homelessness in depth:

Students Experiencing Homelessness by State

Percentage of public school students who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence

Students Experiencing Homelessness Trends

Percentage of public school students who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence

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Students Experiencing Homelessness

About Students Experiencing Homelessness

US Value: 2.5%

Top State(s): Connecticut: 0.8%

Bottom State(s): New York: 5.3%

Definition: Percentage of public school students who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence

Data Source and Years: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Homeless Education, Federal Data Summary, 2020

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Homeless Education, Federal Data Summary, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2023.

Homelessness and housing instability can contribute to poor health among all people, especially children and adolescents. Common health problems among homeless children and youth include:

  • Greater incidence of illness and injury.
  • Greater prevalence and severity of chronic conditions.
  • Sexually transmitted infections and unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
  • Mental health problems and substance use.
  • Increased risk of poor nutrition and diabetes.

Many homeless children attend school. During the 2019-2020 school year, more than 1.2 million students were identified by schools as homeless. Families with children made up about 30% of the total homeless population in 2020, with nearly 54,000 family households experiencing homelessness in one single night. There were 34,210 unaccompanied youth under the age of 25 experiencing homelessness that year; 9.9% of whom were children under 18. 

When students experience instability in their home lives due to homelessness, school is often a place of safety and security. Schools can provide students with a sense of belonging, a consistent and caring environment and the security of an organized and predictable daily schedule. Schools also provide meals, which are critical for students who may not have access to food at home.

Students at increased risk of becoming homeless include children in families that are severely cost-burdened, children living in poverty and children living in homes with domestic violence. The prevalence of homelessness is higher among: 

  • Male youth compared with female youth.
  • Black, Native American and multiracial students.
  • LGBTQ youth compared with non-LGBTQ youth.
  • Former foster care youth compared with youth who have not been in the foster care system. 
  • Students who live in city school districts compared with students who live in suburban, town and rural school districts.

Ending student homelessness requires a coordinated community and government response. The prevention and early identification of youth at risk of homelessness involves collaboration among child welfare agencies, criminal justice systems, education systems and community programs. Ensuring adequate transitional housing, shelters and host homes is also essential to meet the needs of youth and families in crisis. 

More permanent solutions such as affordable housing and transitional living programs are important to preventing reentry into homelessness. Solutions like Housing First programs have seen success in increasing housing stability. Evidence suggests that the economic benefits of these programs outweigh the costs. The development of housing and school partnerships is a promising approach to end student homelessness. These partnerships aim to build housing stability for families and increase school attendance among youth.

Healthy People 2030 recognizes the role of housing stability as a social determinant of health. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has a goal of no family being without shelter, and that if homelessness does occur, it should be a rare and brief occurrence.

Aratani, Yumiko. “Homeless Children and Youth: Causes and Consequences.” Brief. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, September 2009.

Fernandes-Alcantara, Adrienne L. “Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics and Programs.” CRS Report RL33785. Congressional Research Service, March 26, 2019.

Henry, Meghan, Tanya de Sousa, Caroline Roddey, Swati Gayen, Thomas Joe Bednar, and Abt Associates. “The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, Part 1: Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness.” U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development, January 2021.

Jacob, Verughese, Sajal K. Chattopadhyay, Sharon Attipoe-Dorcoo, Yinan Peng, Robert A. Hahn, Ramona Finnie, Jamaicia Cobb, Alison E. Cuellar, Karen M. Emmons, and Patrick L. Remington. “Permanent Supportive Housing With Housing First: Findings From a Community Guide Systematic Economic Review.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 62, no. 3 (March 2022): e188–201.

Korpershoek, Hanke, Esther T. Canrinus, Marjon Fokkens-Bruinsma, and Hester de Boer. “The Relationships between School Belonging and Students’ Motivational, Social-Emotional, Behavioural, and Academic Outcomes in Secondary Education: A Meta-Analytic Review.” Research Papers in Education 35, no. 6 (November 1, 2020): 641–80.

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