In Australia, 'youth homelessness' has had a higher policy priority than in other Western countries. By contrast, in the United States of America, the dominant policy paradigm has been chronic street homelessness followed by sheltering homeless families, but 'youth homelessness' does not have a social problem profile as such. Youth homelessness emerged as a distinct public policy priority in Australia in the late 1970s and 1980s. Why this was so raises important questions of context and history. One stand out factor is the activist and advocacy role of community organisations; another is the bipartisan approach of successive State and Federal Governments prepared to take action. It is a history of considerable achievement compared to most other countries but also of lost opportunities and unfilled aspiration.