BEDS Special Bulletin:
Transition Aged Youth
We describe our clients as “people experiencing homelessness,” an improvement over “the homeless” because it emphasizes how homelessness is temporary. Unfortunately, the phrase does not capture the range of people we serve. Our clients encompass all ages, gender identities, and races/ethnicities. They include veterans; domestic violence survivors; families; transition aged youth; and people with health conditions, behavioral health conditions, and disabilities. We continually refine our services to meet the needs of these populations.

Today, we’d like to look at our work with Transition Aged Youth (TAY) experiencing homelessness, a population that we and our partners have seen grow in the past few years. TAY have unique needs, and we are developing ways to help them gain independent housing.

Who Are TAY?
We’re looking at people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are ready to leave their homes and begin independent adulthood. Different human service fields, agencies, and researches define the term slightly differently, and, in some cases, it can refer to much more specific populations, like youth aging out of foster care.

Why Do TAY Experience Homelessness?
Think about how adolescents move into adulthood. We likely imagine something like graduating from high school; attending trade school, community college, or four-year college/university; getting a job; and moving into a home. Obviously, we expect hitches along the way, but, in some situations and for some populations, like low-income, BIPOC transition age youth, more serious factors leave them unable to undertake those steps—and without a place to stay. These can include:
  • Family discord (Robertson & Toro, 1999)
  • Past abuse and/or neglect (Murphy et al, 2015)
  • Prior trauma (Coates & McKenzie-Mohr, 2010; Davies & Allen, 2017)
  • Behavioral health conditions (Bender et al, 2010)
  • LGBTQ status (Durso & Gates, 2012)
  • Substance abuse (Dashora, Erdem, Slesnick, 2010)
  • Aging out of foster care (Dworsky, Napolitano & Courtney, 2013)

These risks are disturbingly common. One in five teens has a behavioral health condition. The National Children’s Alliance has found that almost 700,000 children are abused or neglected each year, a number that is almost certainly underreported. LGBTQ youth make up 7 percent of the overall youth population but 40 percent of the homeless youth population (suggesting that many are expelled from their homes after coming out).

What Do TAY Experiencing Homelessness Face?
TAY experiencing homelessness face serious risks, including:
  • Physical health problems from sleeping outdoors/in shelters, malnutrition, and inability to get medical care and medications.
  • Behavioral health conditions either existing or from life on the streets, as well as inability to get behavioral healthcare and medications
  • Criminal victimization including robbery, assault, and rape
  • Exploitation including “survival sex,” trading sex for money, food, and/or housing
  • Human Trafficking for sex and labor

What Is BEDS Plus Doing for TAY?
We’ve joined the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP), which seeks to “drastically reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness, including unaccompanied, pregnant and parenting youth.” We’ll be working with our longtime partner Housing Forward, as well as new collaborators the African American Christian Foundation, New Moms, and Youth Outreach Services. Together, we will provide 30 housing units and supportive services for transition aged youth (TAY) experiencing homelessness in our communities.

How Can I Help?
You can give money here, or donate goods here. Your support will help TAY gain independent homes and reenter their communities as adults. If you would like to learn more about the YHDP, please contact Javon Harris, Director of Housing, at help@beds-plus.org