In the United States, 1 in 7 kids between ages 10-18 will run away at some point. On any given day, between 1 and 3 million runaway and homeless kids are alone on the streets.
Kids run away for lots of reasons. Most of the time, it’s because of family problems of some kind, like big arguments or abuse. Sometimes they did something wrong and they’re too afraid to tell their parents, so they just leave. Sometimes it’s something else like a new baby in the family, a death in the family, their parents splitting up or a new stepparent comes along, or they start drinking or doing drugs, or maybe their parents are drinking and doing drugs.
If you’re thinking about running away, you’re probably wanting to do it to avoid your problems. But you need to know that running away and being on the streets will create a whole new set of problems for you. You might run out of money, you might not have any food and water, you won’t have anywhere safe and warm to sleep, and you might even get mixed up in the wrong crowd and get into some scary, illegal stuff. So, there are some other things you can do.
Instead of running away…
- Express your feelings with friends and trusted adults, instead of keeping everything to yourself. Let them know what’s going on, and talk about it so you can come up with a better solution than running away
- When you’re really upset, try calming yourself down by doing something you enjoy, like listening to music, writing poetry, writing in a journal, or exercising.
- When you’re having a problem, make a list of ways you can fix it and make everything better.
- Get help from an adult, like a teacher or counselor. Ask them to help you figure what to do, or somewhere else you can stay.
- Talk to your parents about it and see if you can work it out as a family.
If you have a friend who wants to run away…
- Warn them about how tough it will be to survive on the streets. Let them know that they won’t have enough money, food, or water, and that they could have to deal with some really scary stuff out there all by themselves.
- Remind them that there are other ways they can deal with their problem, and that an adult will know how to help.
- If your friend doesn’t want to tell an adult, tell an adult anyway. When your friend is out on the streets, you don’t want to keep that a secret. You aren’t being a bad friend by telling when they asked you not to… You’re probably saving their life.
Another thing you can do is call The National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929). Their hotline is open 24 hours a day, and your call is free from anywhere. You can also go on http://www.1800runaway.org and live chat. They’ll be able to help you find somewhere to stay.
If you live in Yamhill County, Youth Outreach has a Safe Shelter program for anyone 11-17. If you need help, you can come into our drop-in center Monday-Friday any time until 9 p.m., or call us at 503-538-8023. For weekends and after hours, you can call 1-866-538-8023 (free call from anywhere) and we’ll come pick you up wherever you are. We’ll find somewhere for you to stay.