OVER THE PAST 50 YEARS, THE NATIONAL RUNAWAY SAFELINE HAS CONNECTED WITH MILLIONS OF RUNAWAY, HOMELESS AND AT-RISK YOUTH AND THEIR LOVED ONES, OFFERING SUPPORT, ACCESS TO RESOURCES, AND A LISTENING EAR.
BELOW ARE SOME OF OUR FAVORITE MILESTONES THAT HAVE SIGNIFICANTly IMPACTed our work.
1971 – Metro Help is Founded
A group of Chicago agencies founded a hotline to fill the need for comprehensive crisis intervention for young people in the area. Metro Help was conceived as a 24-hour service, offering expertise in all youth-related issues and as an information clearinghouse of youth services. Today, we have grown into a national organization, providing 24/7 service to youth in crisis.
1974 – The Runaway Youth Act is Passed into Law
Later renamed the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, this legislation formally defined “homeless youth” and was the basis for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, administered by the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB). Also in 1974, Metro Help changed its name from Metro Help to the National Runaway Switchboard, receiving an eight-month federal demonstration grant to establish a national hotline. During the initial grant period, NRS received 11,000 calls, demonstrating the need and importance of the service.
1995 – Home Free Program is established in partnership with Greyhound Lines, Inc.
In partnership with Greyhound Lines, Inc., the Home Free program reunited runaway, homeless and exploited youth reunite with their family/legal guardian through a free bus ticket home or to an alternate living arrangement. Since its inception, more than 17,000 youth have used the program.
2001 – Congress Declares November National Runaway Prevention Month
National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM) is the annual awareness and prevention campaign designed to shine a light on the experiences of runaway and homeless youth. In 2020, NRS and more than 120 partners and ten youth ambassadors from across the country hosted creative events, engaged with followers on social media platforms, arranged for landmarks to be lit up in green (the official color of NRPM), secured proclamations and distributed campaign materials to educate the public about youth homelessness. NRS organized national events, including a Twitter Chat, Lunch and Learn series, roundtable discussion about the importance of prevention programs, Wear Green Day and much more.
2006 – Rapper Ludacris Launches “Runaway Love” Campaign
World-renowned rapper Ludacris partnered with and featured the National Runaway Switchboard in the music video of his GRAMMY Award-winning single, “Runaway Love.” The song brought significant awareness to the runaway and homeless youth crisis, while rising all the way to #2 on the Billboard charts.
2013 – National Runaway Switchboard becomes National Runaway Safeline
The Board of Directors, staff and volunteers of the National Runaway Switchboard determined “safeline” more accurately represented the scope of services offered by the organization to youth in crisis. With the name change, the National Runaway Safeline expanded its crisis services beyond the 1-800-RUNAWAY hotline to include bulletin boards, crisis emails, and live chat on 1800RUNAWAY.org.
2016 – NRS Hosts the Inaugural Spirit of YOuth Fundraising Event
NRS’ inaugural Spirit of Youth fundraiser was held at Chicago’s Navy Pier on October 15, 2016. The festival raised over $170,000 for NRS programs and services. Stay tuned for details about attending and supporting Spirit of Youth even in April 2022.
2020 – Uninterrupted service provided to youth throughout the pandemic
While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging, NRS maintained our 24/7 crisis services for youth in need, effectively serving youth in crisis through a tumultuous year. Since March 2020, people contacting NRS have reported more severe reasons for reaching out – limited to no availability of shelter resources; limited to no access to transportation to safe housing and shelter; limited access to support systems at schools and drop-in centers; having to remain at home or in their current living arrangement with an abuser or other potentially unsafe living situation; an increase in suicide and other mental health-related contacts. Additionally, we experience an increase in contacts from youth under the age of 12 and an overall increase in the level of intensity and length of time needed for each crisis connection. Despite these challenges, the NRS team never faltered in the services provided to America’s youth