Runaways Can (and Should) Get Free Bus Ride Home

July 18, 2012

I remember being a teenager and running away from home. I never got far and always returned to my Chicago real estate. It appears runaways today don’t want to be away from home, either, and now they have a resource to get them back, even if they do end up far away.

According to the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS), a foundation that offers 24/7 hotline and online services for runaway, homeless and at-risk youth, more calls are handled over the summer from youth looking to reunite with their families.

Through the NRS Home Free program, these kids can get a free Greyhound bus ticket home to their families so they can deal with the issues that triggered the runaway episodes.

“We know that the program makes a significant impact on the lives of the people who use the service,” said Maureen Blaha, NRS executive director. “The Home Free program provided the crisis intervention and transportation support necessary to reunite 433 youth with their families in 2011 and more than 14,000 youth since the program’s inception.”

Jennifer Benoit-Bryan, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois in Chicago, analyzed the call data from youth looking to return home through the Home Free program and found:

*Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of youth reported family conflict as a significant issue in 2011, an increase of 8 percent over the last six years.

*Since 2005, more Home Free bus tickets have been issued during the summer months.

*Most of the runaways crossed state lines (88 percent in 2005 versus 91 percent in 2011).

The Home Free program seems to be working. Dr. Gary Harper, a professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Master of Public Health Program at DePaul University, followed up with 2011 program participants and their parents and found that their situations improved after using the Home Free service.

According to Dr. Harper:

*Eighty-five percent of parents reported that the issues that led the youth to run away were somewhat, mostly or completely resolved within a month.

*Most parents reported that their youth used alcohol or other substances less (68 percent), engaged in physical fights less (64 percent), and broke the law less (66 percent).

*Seventy-seven percent of youth did not leave home again.

If you are a runaway, go home and work it out. For more information, visit 1800runaway.org or call 1-800-RUNAWAY.

Categories: Community Service

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