SOAR Voices


Using SOAR to Help End Youth Homelessness

Over the past couple of years, there have been tremendous efforts to obtain a more complete picture of homelessness for individuals under age 25 and identify effective interventions. Through the 2017 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count and the Voices of Youth Count led by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, we’ve learned the following:

  • On a single night in 2017, 40,799 people under the age of 25 were experiencing homelessness as unaccompanied youth. Most unaccompanied youth (88 percent) were between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • Unaccompanied youth were more likely to be unsheltered (55 percent) than all people experiencing homelessness (35 percent) and all people experiencing homelessness as individuals (48 percent).
  • One in 10 young adults aged 18-25 experienced a form of homelessness over a 12-month period in 2016 and 2017, as reported by a national survey of 26,161 people (Voices of Youth Count).
  • The Voices of Youth Count further showed that while the number of homeless youth in urban areas is higher, prevalence rates for youth homelessness (i.e., the rate as a share of the population size) were similar in rural and urban counties.

In February 2018, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), along with other federal partner agencies, released updated criteria and benchmarks to help guide communities as they build a coordinated community response to ending youth homelessness.

  • Incorporating SOAR identification and referral mechanisms into these community responses can help youth with disabling conditions access Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Supplemental Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) income while obtaining permanent housing.
  • Along with cash benefits from SSI/SSDI, youth are able to access health insurance through Medicaid and/or Medicare, and employment supports through SSA work incentives.
  • Taken together, these supports help contribute to housing stability and prevention of future homelessness for youth.

SOAR providers are demonstrating success in increasing access to SSI/SSDI benefits for youth aged 18-25 who have disabling conditions. Data from the SOAR Online Application Tracking system shows that the SOAR model has been used to assist over 1,300 youth aged 18-25 obtain SSI/SSDI at the initial application level, with a 71 percent approval rate in an average of 88 days.* The average age of these applicants was 22 years old.

How is your SOAR Initiative working to end youth homelessness? Let us know and submit a SOAR Voices blog about your experience!



*Data from 2007 to 3/21/18. This does not capture data tracked outside of OAT, and so is an underrepresentation of the full outcomes for this age group.



The views, opinions, and content expressed in SOAR Voices do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors.