According to the National Runaway Hotline, about 1.6 – 2.8 million youths run away from home every year. Homeless and runaway youth consistently identify family conflict as the primary reason for running away. Verbal, physical (34%), and sexual abuse (80% for girls, 34% for boys) are some of the reasons teens run away. 55% of teens who run away are from the age of 15-17.
Out of those who run away 47% come back to the home within 3 days, 8% do not return home for more than 6 months, while 18% stay out from 1-3 weeks. When teens run away from home, and don’t have a safe place to stay. About 58% of them stay with their friends and relatives, 8% at a shelter, 2% survive by panhandling, and approximately 3% find their own employment or use saved funds, 2% engaged in criminal activities such as being involved in the sex industry or stealing.
It’s easy to get lost if we keep looking at these numbers, but these are numbers represent the lives of children and their everyday realities. They’re being beaten at home, sexually abused, physically abused, emotionally abused, and it seems like they have no options except to runaway: 1.6-2.8 million youths each year are running from an unsafe home to the even less safe streets. But there is hope; there’s a SAFE PLACE for them to go to, to find someone who can help them.
Safe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people who need immediate help. In Salt Lake County, we have 88 Safe Place sites strategically position to help teens who run away from home. Each site has a yellow “Safe Place” sign on the side of the building or main entrance door. Fire stations, libraries, and rec-center these are some examples of Safe Place sites. These sites are managed by Salt Lake County Youth Service so that teens can get the help they need. To get help, teens just come to designated sites, tell the people who work there that he/she “need a safe place.” The sites are trained by Salt Lake County Youth Services to handle these situations; they will contact a Case Worker at Salt Lake County Youth Service to come out and help the teen. So, if you know/work with a youth who needs help or might run away; a Safe Play is a way to help find the help they need. Knowing that teens who runaway could be putting themselves in danger, can become vulnerable to drugs, alcohol, crime and sexual exploitation, the danger level increase the longer the teen is out on his/her own. Letting them know of a Safe Place to go can make a difference.
March 20-26 is National Safe Place Week (#NSPWeek2016)! It’s time to let teens know that there is a Safe Place for them to go to if they are need help, or having problems at home. Spread the word so that you can help 1 out of 1.6-2.8 million youths that runaway each year!