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Building a Sustainable and Replicable Approach to Estimate Youth Homelessness with LINC

A homeless African American teenage boy in a blue sweatshirt counts money

Project Summary

This project begins by connecting data from multiple state and local systems to estimate homelessness among youth ages 14 to 24. Then, the researchers will use 10 years of longitudinal data to describe the characteristics and experiences associated with homelessness of older youth ages 18 to 24. This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and conducted in partnership with the Center for Policy Research. It builds on prior work, funded by Colorado Department of Human Services, that focused specifically on characteristics of youth formerly in foster care who experienced homelessness as young adults.

Research questions include:

  1. What administrative data linkages can be leveraged to build a sustainable and replicable approach to estimate homelessness of youth ages 14 to 24 in states where data are siloed at different geographic levels?
  2. What are the incidents of youth homelessness in the Denver area and a second, to be determined, broader geographic area in Colorado?
  3. What are the K-12 educational, child welfare-related, public-assistance program participation, and police involvement characteristics and histories of youth associated with homelessness as older youth (i.e., ages 18 to 24)?

These questions will be answered through an iterative process of conducting interviews with key informants, addressing barriers to data sharing and data quality, and piloting data linkages. The project team will develop a Best Practice Guide for using integrated administrative data sources to produce rigorous and efficient estimates of youth homelessness.

Steps to Building Evidence

We are building population descriptives for other policies/programs to leverage, which is Step 3 on the Steps to Building Evidence.


No one public system, nonprofit, or data collection endeavor identifies all youth who experience homelessness. Connecting data across public systems and nonprofit service providers can help yield more complete estimates of youth homelessness than each individual system can produce on its own. While differing definitions of “homelessness” and data collection methods are challenges for estimating youth homelessness , it can also be an opportunity to cast as wide of a net as possible to generate more comprehensive estimates. With more complete estimates, state agencies and service providers can better serve and advocate for the vulnerable population of youth experiencing homelessness.

Get Involved

For more information about working with the Colorado Lab, see Government and Community Partnerships or Research Partnerships.