Common Signs of Homelessness

Following are common signs of youth homelessness. This list offers general guidance. There is significant variability within this population. Individual students may differ from the following general characteristics. Stereotypes of homelessness do not match the reality of most young people who have lost their homes. The circumstances surrounding each youth's homelessness will be unique. This fact sheet was taken from College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness, available in its entirety at

Lack of Continuity in Education

Attendance at many different high schools or institutions of higher education

Difficulties in School

Frequent absences from class
Consistent lack of preparation for class
Lack of supplies needed to complete class assignments
Loss of books and other supplies on a regular basis

Paperwork and Documentation Challenges

Lack of records normally needed for school enrollment
Difficulty completing the FAFSA
Inability to get a parent or guardian signature
Lack of access to parental financial information

Social and Behavioral Concerns

A marked change in behavior
Poor/short attention span
Poor self-esteem
Extreme shyness
Resistance to forming relationships with teachers/professors and classmates
Difficulty trusting people
Displays of aggression
"Old beyond years"

Poor Health/Nutrition

Lack of immunization or health records
Unmet medical and dental needs
Chronic hunger and fatigue

Poor Hygiene

Lack of consistent access to shower and laundry facilities
Wearing the same clothes repeatedly
Inconsistent grooming

Lack of Support System (unaccompanied homeless youth)

Strained or severed relationship(s) with parent(s)
Lack of supportive relationship(s) with caring, responsible adult(s)

Statements by Student

"I have been moving around a lot."
"I'm staying with friends for a while."
"I'm going through a difficult time."