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A Call to Action on Runaway Youth in Your Community

As the streets chill this November, we at Polaris recognize National Runaway Prevention Month. According to the National Runaway Safeline, between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away from home each year. Youth have many reasons to run away from home, including family conflict, abuse, being trafficked by family members, drug use, or rejection based on sexual or gender identity. Once on the street, runaway youth face additional risks, including dropping out of school, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

We are fortunate to work alongside the National Runaway Safeline (NRS). Similar to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the NRS responds to calls from people in crisis, their family and friends, concerned community members, and service providers. Considering that runaways face particular risk of being targeted by unscrupulous traffickers, our ability to work in concert with NRS is of vital importance.Through our collaboration, we are able to better support runaway youth to find shelter, food, and, if in their best interest, to be reunited with family.

While hotlines meet a critical need, runaway youth also go to people they know and trust for support: their friends, family members, and educators. With this year’s theme of “Friends Helping Friends,” the National Runaway Safeline – and Polaris – want to spread awareness so that friends, family, and educators are ready to give the support that is asked of them.

Runaway youth are often hard to recognize and identify because they try to hide their situation. Adults often think they are ‘bad kids,’ when actually they are just kids in a bad situation. Every youth deserves a safe place to grow and learn. It is important that we as a society change our perspective on runaway youth, learn to recognize the signs, and offer support when it is needed. We need to remind our community, neighbors, and friends what some youth live through and how we can all be involved in supporting them.

You can help get out the word. The NRS produced a toolkit to help you bring attention to runaways in your community. The toolkit describes opportunities for community engagement in national and local events, such as Wear Green Day on November 9th or the National Candlelight Vigil on November 16th. By spreading awareness in your community, you may make it more likely for people to identify runaways. Your efforts could also help runaways to know when, where, how, and from whom to safely seek support.

The NRS made it easy for you to start the conversation in your community. Visit the NRS website for more information.

If you are considering running away from home, know someone who plans on running away from home, or have run away from home and want support, you can find that support from the National Runaway Safeline by calling 1-800-RUNAWAY.

If you are a victim of human trafficking and need immediate help or if you suspect a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or send a text to BeFree (233733).

Photo credit: Flickr / Saga Sigurdardottir

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Need help? Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.