Why Do Teenagers Become Homeless?

Domestic problems, substance abuse, economic instability and loss of foster care eligibility are some of the most common causes of teen homelessness. Adult teens are released from the foster system and juvenile detention facilities with little or no assistance finding housing and income sources. Approximately 20 percent of youth at shelters are transitioning from foster care, according to DoSomething.org.

Harmful home environments can drive teens to run away, simultaneously increasing their risk of developing depression, engaging in unprotected sex and using drugs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Teens may view homelessness as the only alternative to coping with physical or emotional abuse, sexual assault or drug addiction in the family. Moreover, parents or guardians who feel unequipped to handle their teen's mental health or behavioral problems may force the teen to move out.

Issues such as teen pregnancy and sexual orientation can lead to homelessness when a family is unsupportive. Young girls make up 75 percent of runways, and an estimated 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth identify with the LGBT community, according to the NCSL.

Changes in a family's economic situation can cause teens to be displaced or kicked out, especially during a recession. Even when families intend to stay together, child welfare agencies may relocate children to foster homes or shelters when parents can't maintain stable housing and health care. Older teens may choose to go off on their own if they feel unsafe or too confined in foster homes or shelters.