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March 14, 2008

Center for Adolescent Health Calls Attention to Baltimore’s Homeless Youth

The Bloomberg School’s Center for Adolescent Health is calling attention to the plight of Baltimore’s homeless youth. The Center issued a policy brief that outlines the scope of Baltimore’s youth homeless problem and offers solutions for addressing the issue.

A 2007 Baltimore City Homeless Census estimated that 11 percent of the 3,002 homeless living in Baltimore are under the age of 18. However, the census does not distinguish youth who are unaccompanied in their homelessness and those who are homeless with their families. A parallel count conducted by the Baltimore Homeless Youth Initiative, with technical assistance from the Center for Adolescent Health, estimated approximately 10 times the number of unaccompanied homeless youth counted in the Baltimore City Homeless Census. In addition, the Baltimore Public School system estimates that 2,289 students are homeless or are displaced and lack a permanent home.

“Understanding the magnitude of youth homelessness is one of the critical steps in addressing the problem. The current estimates of youth homelessness in Baltimore are widely diverging and use very different definitions and methods to get the numbers,” said Vignetta Charles, MSc, an author of the brief. “Without a number, it's difficult to allocate resources. Undercounting minimizes our social responsibility to help this vulnerable population who are at risk for negative health outcomes that include depression, HIV and unwanted pregnancy."

Among the Center’s recommendations is a call for research to accurately determine the number of homeless youth in Baltimore. The current data is best at assessing homeless persons who access shelters and soup kitchens, sites which young people are less likely to frequent. Other recommendations include the development of specific homeless services for youth and improved services for young people leaving foster care or the juvenile justice system.

Policy brief

Summary brief

For additional information, please contact Tim Parsons at 410-955-7619 or at tmparson@jhsph.edu.