The majority of these youths are thought to have relatively
low-risk experiences (e.g., they nm away to a friend's home) and to return home after a few days [National Network 1985]. An imknown proportion, however, end up on the streets or in need of shelter.
In 1974, Congress enacted the Runaway and Homeless Youth
Act, which provides support for shelters and Transitional Living Programs (TLPs). Shelters and TLPs offer an array of services including temporary housing, counseling, crisis intervention, and
aftercare and outreach. Federally funded shelters (excluding TLPs) serve youths ages 12 to 17, are limited in size to 20 beds, and restrict youths' stays to a maximum of 15 days; their primary focus
is on reuniting runaway and homeless youths with their families. TLPs, designed to provide structured and supportive living arrangements for up to 18 months to runaway and homeless youths
ages 16 to 21 who cannot be reunited with their families, are also limited in size to 20 beds.
Federally funded shelters and TLPs, however, constitute only a portion of the youth shelters currently operating in the U.S. The remaining shelters receive funding from state and local governments and private sources, including religious and nonprofit organizations. Because these shelters have never been systematically
surveyed, only limited information is available about them, but anecdotal information suggests that they vary considerably in size, average length of stay of youths, and type of youths they serve. Research on services to runaway and homeless youths is sparse. A few studies that have estimated the number of youth shelter beds available nationwide or the proportion of those that are occupied on any given night have been restricted to federally funded
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