There is no single definition of the term â€œrunaway youthâ€ or â€œhomeless youth.â€ However, both groups of youth share the risk of not having adequate shelter and other provisions, and may engage in harmful behaviors while away from a permanent home. These two groups also include â€œthrownawayâ€ youth who are asked to leave their homes, and may include other vulnerable youth populations, such as current and former foster youth and youth with mental health or other issues.
The precise number of homeless and runaway youth is unknown due to their residential mobility and overlap among the populations. Determining the number of these youth is further complicated by the lack of a standardized methodology for counting the population and inconsistent definitions of what it means to be homeless or a runaway. Estimates of the homeless youth population range from 52,000 to over one million. Estimates of runaway youth â€” including â€œthrownawayâ€ youth â€” are between 1 million and 1.7 million.