6 Ways that a Runaway Hotline Helps Runaway Teens
Our runaway hotline and online services provide a large amount of useful information for youth in crisis, at-risk youth, parents, educators, partner organizations and more. However, our main focus is to keep runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe and off the street. We are able to do this in several ways. Here is an overview of how we help youth in crisis.
We listen. Youth in crisis, at the most basic level, need someone to listen. We receive messages through our blog, our forum, live chat, social media, text and email that exist on all points of the scale. We hear about arguments with parents, questions about moving out at 17, or if it is illegal to run away. Youth reach out with stories of loneliness and being bullied, or share stories of abuse and violence. They reach out, simply hoping to be acknowledged and perhaps find some help.
That is where our crisis services center comes in. Our trained volunteer liners listen and empathize with youth who are experiencing crisis, and work with them to find a solution to their immediate needs. We allow the youth to direct the call, through our nonjudgmental, nondirective approach.
We help youth create a plan. Youth approach us with their problems, and give us details on their situations. They may want to leave, but they do not have a plan beyond living with other relatives, friends, or on the streets. They are potentially putting themselves at great risk.
Our nondirective approach allows the youth to consider their immediate circumstances, and to determine what would be their best possible outcome. We gather as much background on their situation as possible, so we can work to help them develop their plan of action that will keep them safe and off the street. We can then refer them to resources in their area that can help, or conference a call with resources.
We provide resources. Once the youth contacts our crisis services center and develops a plan of action, we refer them to resources near their area that can provide the help they need. Often we connect with the resource organization while the youth is still on the line or on our live chat so we can make arrangements for the youth. This helps make the transition as seamless as possible help for the youth.
Our national database contains nearly 7,000 resources that can provide services such as temporary housing, counseling, legal help, food pantries, medical treatment, etc. These organizations are established, safe environments where youth can find the help they need. They could be in the youth’s immediate area, or within a reasonable distance. They provide the ongoing support for the youth after the call or live chat is over.
Sometimes, a youth may not need a professional resource. They may just need a person to act as a bridge between themselves and their parent(s) or guardian(s).
We help facilitate conversations between youth and their guardians. Often we hear from youth, or their parents or guardians, about their inability to communicate. Disagreements lead to arguments, and then may result in silence, or unfortunately, abuse. In these times, it is often necessary for a moderator to step in to help bring calm to a situation and open up the lines of communication.
NRS offers options that can allow youth to connect to parents or vice versa, even though they may not want to speak face to face. We also have options for youth who have already run away but want to send a message to their parents through us.
Conference Calls: When youth request assistance contacting their family or an agency that can help, NRS facilitates a conference call. NRS’ frontline team member remains on the line with the youth, advocating, as needed, on their behalf.
Message Service: NRS maintains a message service for youth who want to relay a message but are not ready to communicate directly with their parent. NRS’ message service is a less intimidating means for a youth to reestablish contact with their parent/guardian and often serves as the first step toward reunification. In addition, a parent may access the service to leave a message for his/her child.
Our goal is to be able to help youth and their parents to work out their differences in a nonjudgmental environment. This can help prevent youth from choosing to run away, and prevent adults from unintentionally aggravating a situation.
We help youth get home. For youth that have run away, and are now wishing to return home, they may have very few safe options. They may be thousands of miles from home, with no money and no contacts nearby to help facilitate a cross-country trip.
In response, NRS has developed a program with Greyhound Lines called “Home Free.” NRS helps reunite runaway youth with their families, or an alternate living arrangement, through a free bus ticket home. More than 15,000 youth have been reunited with families through the Home Free Program since 1995. Recently, the program expanded its availability to youth up to age 21. Youth eligible for Home Free includes reunification transportation with family, approved alternate living arrangements, or community-based transitional or independent living programs.
The program can be accessed through our website, or by calling 1-800-RUNAWAY.
We care. We keep America’s most vulnerable individuals safe and off the street. We hear the stories every day from youth courageous enough to reach out. Our goal is to allow youth to feel safe, get the resources they need and help them develop a plan of action that will keep them off the street. They may be feeling like no one cares for them. We want them to know that NRS is here to listen, here to help.
These are six ways that a runaway hotline and online services help those in need, but there are also several indirect ways NRS helps runaway teens and youth. Supplying data on runaway and homeless youth, giving opportunities to those who wish to volunteer, as well as offering instructional materials to educators on runaway prevention are all ways that we serve youth and their families. NRS provides confidential, free services 24/7/365 at 1-800-RUNAWAY and 1800RUNAWAY.org.