Addressing the Intersections of Juvenile Justice Involvement and Youth Homelessness: Principles for Change

Addressing the Intersections of Juvenile Justice Involvement and Youth Homelessness: Principles for Change

A young person’s involvement with the justice system can increase their likelihood of later experiencing homelessness for many reasons, including the fact that educational disruptions and juvenile delinquency records can make it harder to obtain employment. Youth experiencing homelessness may also be swept into the juvenile justice system through laws that prohibit simply being in public spaces, such as juvenile curfews, or anti-sitting or sleeping ordinances. Both juvenile justice involvement and youth homelessness have long-term negative consequences. The Principles in Part I of this document provide a roadmap for communities to help young people avoid experiencing juvenile justice system involvement and/or youth homelessness. Part II of this document includes specific resources and examples to guide communities as they work to put Principles for Change into practice. 

Each year, nearly 380,000 minors experience “unaccompanied” homelessness — meaning they are homeless and without a parent or guardian — for a period of longer than one week. These young people, much like their adult counterparts, are often cited, arrested, charged, and/or incarcerated instead of being provided with the supports they need. One million youth are also involved with law enforcement or the juvenile justice system each year, an experience that can increase their likelihood of becoming homeless.

Many young people experience both homelessness and justice involvement. The following key principles and policy recommendations can help jurisdictions ensure that a youth’s involvement with the juvenile justice system does not increase the likelihood that they will experience homelessness, and that youth experiencing homelessness receive the services and supports they need instead of being cited, arrested, charged, or incarcerated. Juvenile justice agencies, youth homelessness service providers, and related stakeholders can improve outcomes for youth through collaboration, innovation, and the use of research and promising practices to inform their work. These recommendations should be used as a guide.

ORGANIZATION: Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ)
PUBLICATION DATE: 2017