Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Outreach Services (Annual) (Baltimore County FY19 and Beyond)

Story Behind the Curve

The Target Population for Homeless Youth Outreach Services is young people who are 24 years of age or younger, who are not in the physical custody of a parent or legal guardian, and who lack a fixed, regular, or adequate nighttime residence.  Many factors contribute to youth homelessness including family dysfunction (e.g., family conflict, parental neglect due to poverty or mental illness, and sexual abuse), aging out of the foster care system, juvenile justice system involvement, and economic hardship.  The consequences of youth homeless may include, but are not limited to, unmet basic needs (e.g., food, clothing, shelter), untreated behavioral health conditions, substance use, sexual exploitation, sexually transmitted diseases, and suicide. 


Baltimore County uses two indicator data points to estimate, to the greatest degree possible, the size of the unaccompanied homeless youth population – student homelessness and unaccompanied homeless youth (as measured by the Youth Reach survey count + Baltimore County Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data).


Since 2019, the County has experienced a level trend line in the percentage of Baltimore County Public Schools students experiencing homelessness.  The County percentage rose from 2.19% in 2012 to a high of 2.7% in 2015, and declined slightly to 2.5% in 2019 and 2020.  Baltimore County’s 2020 rate of 2.5% represents approximately 3,000 homeless students. In a data review conducted in February 2020 in preparation for Youth Reach survey implementation, the Baltimore County Public School System identified 327 unduplicated students meeting the definition for unaccompanied homeless youth.


Baltimore County provided services to over 4,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in FY20.  According to the FY19 Annual Report on Homelessness*, Baltimore County served the second highest number of homeless individuals (4,174) in Maryland behind Baltimore City (11,798) (MD Interagency Council on Homelessness, 2019).  Thirty-seven percent, or approximately 1,540 of those individuals served, were 24 years of age or younger.


Baltimore County’s 2018 Youth Reach Survey counted 87 youth defined as unaccompanied homeless youth.  Youth Reach is a point-in-time survey conducted every other year throughout Maryland.  When the University of MD combined the Youth Reach survey data with 2018 County Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data regarding unaccompanied homeless youth receiving homeless services, the count increased to 265 unduplicated unaccompanied homeless youth.  Baltimore County HMIS data for 2019 identified 285 unaccompanied homeless youth receiving homeless services.  The 2020 Youth Reach survey was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 


*Data from the recently completed 2022 Youth Reach survey is not available to date.

  • Shelter Operators (public and private);
  • Baltimore County Department of Housing and Community Development;
  • Baltimore County Public Schools;
  • Baltimore County Department of Social Services;
  • Community College of Baltimore County;
  • Baltimore County Public Library;
  • Community Action Network:
  • Faith-based Organizations; and,
  • Youth Service Providers of Baltimore County and Baltimore City (e.g., Family Crisis Center, Young Parent Support Center).
Action Plan

The overarching goal of Homeless Youth Outreach Services is to reduce the number of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness in Baltimore County.  To fulfill this goal, program objectives include the following: a.) Utilize outreach to identify unaccompanied homeless youth in the community and meet their immediate basic needs with the intent of engaging youth long-term for linkage to needed services and supports; and, b.) Assist engaged unaccompanied homeless youth to secure and sustain housing stability through case management services that facilitate timely access to needed services and supports.


Through the program’s work during the initial years of service, the outreach team has developed a successful system to meet the short-term basic needs of unaccompanied homeless youth.  Moving forward, the program needs to expand capacity to address the short and long-term needs of youth to achieve sustainable outcomes and long-term stability.  The majority of youth served have complex needs and require not months but years of sustained support services to achieve stability.  Program leadership, including staff of the newly created County Department of Housing and Community Develoment, have begun meeting to develop a road map for achieving a comprehensive long-term support system with more readily available housing options designed specifically for youth and young adults.

Program Summary

The Homeless Youth Outreach program provides gateway services for unaccompanied homeless youth including youth mobile street outreach, drop-in center, and limited case management services. Recognizing that homeless youth may not be immediately receptive to long-term services, gateway services focus on locating youth, meeting their basic needs (e.g., food, clothing, hygiene, etc.), and gaining their trust for the longer term purpose of linking them with a broader array of more intensive services based on their individual needs (e.g., housing support, physical and/or behavioral health services, education and/or employment services, etc.). 

Target Population

Young people who are 24 years of age or younger, who are not in the physical custody of a parent or legal guardian, and who lack a fixed, regular, or adequate nighttime residence.

Governor's Strategic Goal

Reduce youth homelessness. 

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