It’s a common story. Adolescents might get angry, have trouble getting along with their families, or have significant concerns that cause them to pick up and leave. They might feel the need to runaway. They might feel like they can’t stay where they are and leave their home without knowing where to go.
For many of these teens, they would rather rough it on the streets rather than sleep in their own bed. And for others, it’s not that simple. Of course, some adolescents end up returning home because of the dangers they encounter. While others end up homeless and on the streets.
According to the National Runaway Switchboard, on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living on the streets, sleeping in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. The problem here is that this is not just that they are living in these foreign places, without supervision or family, but that they are vulnerable to risky situations.
For instance, homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical and sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, mental illnesses, drug and alcohol addiction, crime, and even death. It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services defines homeless youth as minors who have spent at least one night either in a shelter or on the streets without adult supervision. The consequences of teen homelessness include depression and other forms of mental illness, drug use, and often out of desperation, theft and other crime.
Research shows that:
- One in seven teens between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away
- Teens ages 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults
- 75 percent of runaways are female
- The number of pregnant homeless females is approximately between 6 and 22 percent
- Between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning (GLBTQ)
- 46 percent of runaway and homeless youth reported being physically abused, 38 percent reported being emotionally abused, and 17 percent reported being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member
- 75 percent percent of homeless or runaway youth have dropped out or will drop out of school
For this reason, there is A Safe Place for teens, with locations all over the United States. They are an organization striving to provide safety and caring adults for teens who are in need of both. Teens can text the organization if they are in danger; they can go directly to a location to seek help; or they can call if they are in need of help. A Safe Place encourages teens to text the word SAFE and their address, city, and state to the number 69866.
Although there are Safe Place locations throughout the United States, their website is also a source of information so that teens can get information they need on subjects perhaps not discussed at school or at home. Furthermore, their site encourages teens to talk to an adult they trust. Although it might take some opening up, trust, and honesty, most teens have the following adults in their lives:
- Friends or relatives
- Teachers or guidance counselors
- A minister, rabbi or priest
- Your parents
- A local youth shelter
- A community crisis hotline
And at the very least, teens can call the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS). The switchboard is a national toll-free hotline for runaway, homeless and youth in crisis. The switchboard is accessible by calling 1-800-RUNAWAY.
Many teens reach a point where they just can’t take it anymore and feel the need to leave. But that decision doesn’t have to end up in homelessness, danger, or risky situations. A Safe Place can support teens when they are in crisis.