Welcome to the California Homeless Youth Project

Youth Voices

The HYP brings youth voices to the policy process.  Young people who have experienced homelessness – and those still on the streets – share their lives and stories through the Video Wall and Other Voices in this section.

It’s not safe on the streets, and sometimes you feel sad because you have nothing to come home to.  You walk around all day living life for nothing.   You dream and dream all the time about going home, but you have no home to go to.  (18 year-old female in Hayward)

Most of the youth interviewed by their peers for the report Voices from the Street: A Survey of Homeless Youth by Their Peers were among the hardest-to-reach and least-studied homeless populations:  youth who sleep on the streets or in cars, squat in abandoned buildings, or "couch-surf."  They describe how they became homeless, what life on the street is like, their interactions with police, their education and aspirations, their mental health experiences, and how they go about getting help.  They also identify the changes they would like to see happen in policy or law.

The HYP Video, Voices from the Street: Homeless Youth Speak Out on State Policy presents the major findings of the HYP survey and the policy recommendations generated at six seminars held in Sacramento in 2007-08.  In the video, young people, adult experts, researchers and service providers discuss the issues related to youth homelessness. View the four-part video at right. Each issue below is linked to the discussion in the video.


Policy Recommendations by Youth

Trajectories into Homelessness
  • Extend the support services created for foster youth in the last decade to the wider transition-aged youth population.
Interactions with Law Enforcement
  • Undo the criminalization of homelessness.
  • Train police to communicate effectively with young people in crisis on the streets.
  • Make it safe for homeless or criminally involved youth to turn to the police for help so they can end the cycle.

  • Fully implement the McKinney-Vento Act so homeless students get support to stay in school – such as credit transfer programs and resources such as lockers, showers, and transportation vouchers
  • Be aware of the stigma and barriers that discourage homeless youth from asking for help or attending school.

  • Design shelter rules around young people’s needs for stability, not institutional needs.
  • Ensure services do not mirror the trauma young people experienced in being pushed out of their homes.
  • Trusting, long-term relationships between staff and youth are the key to successful programs.

Young people need more than a place to stay – they need support services and help finding permanent housing.