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Portrait of a Runaway

Runaways are not “bad” kids. They are not running to something, but away from something. They believe their home situations to be so awful that living anywhere else is better; even if this means living on the streets. Their home situation usually involves many problems, not one isolated problem.

Anyone may run away from home when home or school situations become “unbearable” to them. And it is important to understand that a youth’s reason for leaving is unique to that individual. There is no such thing as a “typical” runaway. Youth come from every kind of neighborhood, rich or poor, rural or urban. There is no differentiation between race or religion.

Many runaways leave home more than once. The first time they run, they typically with friends or relatives. As the length of time away from home increases, these youth often flee to urban areas where they can “blend in” with other kids and are therefore less likely to be noticed by authority figures. They tend to hang out at fast food restaurants, shopping malls and video arcades. They live in abandoned buildings or underneath highway bridges. In warmer climates, they may spend their nights on the beach or in parks.

As bad as things may have been at home, runaways soon find life on the street even worse. Most leave home without understanding the daily problems they will encounter once they have run away: they only seek to escape the problems in their current situation. And it doesn’t help when television and movies romanticize life on the streets. Street life is not a Tom Sawyer/river boat adventure as runaways find out all too soon.


Statement of Need

The statistics tell the story of why NRS is in operation. In a time when so many children are in crisis, NRS’ services are needed even more urgently.

· 1.6-2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the streets of America.

(OJJDP, 2002, Research Triangle Institute, 1995)

· Youth aged 12-17 are at higher risk for homelessness than adults.

(American Journal of Public Health, 1994, 1998)

· 47% of runaway/homeless youth indicated that conflict between them and their parent or guardian was a major problem.
(Westat, 1997)

2006 NRS Call Statistics – Reasons for Calls

Family Dynamics: divorce, remarriage, problems with siblings, extended family


Peer/Social: pressure from friends, gang issues, dating and relationships


Abuse: neglect, emotional maltreatment, physical abuse, sexual abuse



Mental Health/Economics: depression, suicide, counseling or therapy, concerns and referrals, financial difficulties



School: problems with teachers, administration, suspension, expulsion



Youth Services/Judicial System: relationship with social worker, alternative housing, judicial system


Alcohol/Drug: by youth, friend, parent, family member, treatment concerns


Transportation: Each year we reunite approximately 1,000 families through the Home Free Program in partnership with Greyhound Lines, Inc.


Health: physical ailment, pregnancy, STDs, including HIV/AIDS


Sexuality: homosexuality, bisexuality, sexual concerns of self or others


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