Why are some young adults homeless?

We’re excited to share a guest blog by Alyssa Mullins, a University of Central Florida Department of Sociology graduate student.  Alyssa led a team of fellow graduate student researchers in conducting a very interesting survey of 28 homeless young adults in our community.  Their goal was to find out about the contributing factors to young adult homelessness.  Below are their very interesting findings: 


There is currently little known about the causes of homelessness among young adults between the ages of 18 and 24.  Service providers in the Central Florida area, however, tend to agree that this population has one major factor in common: they have experienced trauma during their childhood.

Inspired by this observation and eager to gain additional insight into the phenomenon of youth homelessness in Central Florida, our team of graduate student researchers developed a questionnaire that was modeled after existing homelessness and trauma-based surveys. With the cooperation of a local youth homeless shelter, we were able to interview a total of 28 youth.

Findings from this preliminary examination conclude that homeless youth in Central Florida typically come from unstable families. A majority of the youth claimed they were either kicked out of their homes (41%) or ran away (18%), often citing reasons related to unhealthy family relationships and mistreatment. Approximately 85% of the sample reported having a less than happy childhood, with more than one-third (37%) reporting that their childhood was very unhappy.


A majority of the respondents indicated that the adults in their home yelled at each other occasionally or often (72%). Additionally, approximately 32% indicated that the adults in their home hit each other occasionally or often, and 42% reported that the police were called to their homes occasionally or often.

This preliminary study also addressed acts of physical, emotional, and sexual violence perpetrated against the youth during their childhood. Many of the respondents reported being spanked (53.6%), pushed, shoved, or grabbed (53.6%), or having had something thrown at them that could hurt (50%).

In terms of emotional abuse during their childhood, three-fifths of the sample stated they were insulted or called names (60.7%) or sworn at (60.7%).  Additionally, 57% of the youth had been humiliated or embarrassed, and almost half of the sample claimed they were neglected (46.4%).

Some of the youth also reported incidents of sexual trauma or abuse. For instance, 25% of the sample said they were asked to do something sexual, and approximately 14% recounted being kissed or touched sexually. Additionally, 14% stated they were forced to do something sexual.

childhood abuse

Parents or parental figures were most commonly cited as the perpetrators of the trauma or abuse described above. When asked how often incidents occurred, average responses indicated that trauma or abuse typically occurred somewhat regularly or very frequently.

In short, this preliminary examination identified frequent childhood experiences of trauma and abuse among a large proportion of the respondents.  This indicates a need for further investigation into the perceived and real impacts of these incidents among homeless youth.  Continued research may encourage community investment into the unique needs of this vulnerable population in order to provide assistance during experiences of homelessness, as well as prevent homelessness among young adults.


Thank you to Alyssa, her UCF research team and professor Dr. James Wright for their insight and partnership. This research helps shed light on different facets of homelessness.  It is vital in helping our community to understand, address and hopefully prevent homelessness.