The following is a commentary on an article discussing homeless youth and the need for communities to address this issue. It is clear that research is needed to understand more about the extent, causes and consequences of youth homelessness whether the youth has run or been thrown away from home. Drawing on interviews conducted with homeless and runaway youth, this commentary calls for community responsibility directed at locating these youth, acknowledging their presence in communities across the U.S., and developing coordinated multijurisdictional responses that support youth development and build on the strengths that have helped them survive.

Author Biography

Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML), received her Ph.D. in sociology in 1979 from the University of Pennsylvania, Center for Research in Criminology and Criminal Law. For 37 years she has directed longitudinal research on violence against women and children and studied victimization in military families, among homeless youth and in institutional settings. Author of several books and numerous scholarly publications, she has lectured in the U.S. and internationally on many topics including child sexual abuse, trauma and memory, human trafficking and researcher-practitioner collaborations. She served on the National Research Councils’ Panel on Violence Against Women. In 1996 – 2005 she was Director of Research at the Stone Center, Wellesley Centers for Women and was awarded APSACs Research Career Achievement Award. Professor Williams teaches courses on crime victim issues, research methods, and gender, race and crime. She has been principal investigator on 15 U.S. federally funded research projects. She is currently conducting CDC-funded research on use of social marketing and in-person training programs to enhance bystander behaviors to prevent relationship violence on college campuses. She recently completed a Department of Justice-funded study of commercially sexually exploited (domestically trafficked) teens: Pathways to commercial sexual victimization of children—a life course perspective. In 2009, along with UML colleagues, she began the Office of Victims of Crime-funded: National-Scope Demonstration Project to Integrate Crime Victims’ Issues into University and College Curricula.


Research cited in this commentary was supported by Grant No. 2006-MU-FX-0060 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Sincere thanks go to the many young people who have shared their stories in the hope that they will help others not to have to go through what they experienced. The author would like to acknowledge the contribution made to the Pathways Study by Andrea Powell, co-investigator and executive director of Fair Fund, Inc. and Mary Frederick, research associate, University of Massachusetts Lowell, as well as, the assistance of numerous staff and agencies in Boston and Washington, DC.