You Said It: Keeping Youth Safe and Off the Streets

In 2016, there were more than 11,000 unaccompanied homeless youth ages 14-24 in the city of Chicago. Putting those figures in perspective, that’s essentially every student at New Trier, Stevenson, Highland Park, and Deerfield high schools combined.

Nationally, approximately 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness each year — slightly more than the population of Los Angeles.

Youth may find themselves living in a car, shelter, or on the street after leaving home on their own or being told to leave. Some may wish to return, but find themselves locked out. Often, youth in crisis face troubling family dynamics and various forms of abuse.

Youth homelessness is a serious issue, but it is one we can solve together.

At the Chicago-based National Runaway Safeline (NRS), we work to keep America’s runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth safe and off the streets. We do this largely through crisis intervention on our hotline and online services, which are available 24 hours, 365 days a year.

When a 15-year-old boy calls our toll-free number, 1-800-786-2929, seeking shelter from the cold, a trained volunteer or staff member listens and provides confidential, non-directive, and non-judgmental support, and together they devise an action plan to ensure the teen’s safety and well-being.

Or when a 19-year-old girl sends a chat message via 1800runaway.org explaining she is far from home and wants to be reconnected with her family, but is penniless, we help by assessing the situation, contacting her parent or guardian, and sending her home through the Home Free program offered in partnership with Greyhound.

While responding to the real time needs of youth in crisis is a critical part of NRS’s mission, we also help youth-serving agencies and schools handle the issues surrounding runaway and homeless youth. Through crisis intervention training and educational resources, such as the “Let’s Talk: Runaway Prevention Curriculum,” we empower youth to develop coping skills to build resiliency and avoid unsafe situations.

Young people deserve a safe, nurturing home. NRS makes nearly 100,000 connections to help and hope each year. We partner with approximately 8,000 agencies in big cities and small towns that provide direct services to youth in crisis.

The National Runaway Safeline depends on the generosity of volunteers and donors to fulfill its mission. To support the organization and learn more, call 773-880-9860 or visit 1800runaway.org.