Connecting Unaccompanied Youth Experiencing Homelessness to Social Security Disability Benefits

This issue brief, developed by the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance Center, explores how use of the SOAR model can increase access to income and health insurance, facilitate housing stability, and support unaccompanied youth pursing education and vocational goals.

Connecting Unaccompanied Youth Experiencing Homelessness to Social Security Disability Benefits explores research regarding the subject of youth homelessness, with a specific focus on the disproportionate representation of youth who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (or Queer) (LGBTQ+) who are experiencing homelessness, the correlation between youth homelessness and behavioral health, and how to effectively engage youth experiencing homelessness in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application process.

The SOAR model helps increase access to Social Security Administration disability benefits for children, youth, and adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness who have a serious mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder. The use of the SOAR model’s critical components can increase approval rates on SSI/SSDI applications, resulting in a significant step toward housing stability, resiliency, and recovery. Providing comprehensive benefits application assistance using the SOAR model can also increase access to income and health insurance, facilitate housing stability, and support youth in pursuing education and vocational goals.

SOAR’s intensive engagement process and holistic approach to SSI/SSDI application assistance can be a critical support for unaccompanied Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY), particularly those experiencing intersectional identities, including Black and other non-white youth and youth who identify as LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ youth comprise between 30-45 percent of the overall RHY population, compared to an estimated 5-10 percent of the overall youth population. The greatest over-representation occurs among RHY populations in large urban areas.

This resource was first shared in 2020.

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