About two million children and teens runaway from home every year, but Greyhound and the National Runaway Safeline are partnering to give children a bus ticket to reunite with their families.
Established in 1995, The Home Safe Program aims to get runaway, homeless and exploited children back home or in a safe environment where they can obtain appropriate services. It falls in line with the NRS’s mission to keep America’s runaway, homeless and at-risk youth, safe and off the streets.
To be eligible for the program, children and teens must be between the ages of 12 and 21 and self-identify as homeless, runaway, or a victim of human trafficking. They must be willing to be reunited with their family and vice versa. Youth are also required to agree to complete the necessary steps to obtain a ticket through the Home Free Program. There are some circumstances in which parents or guardians can also get a round-trip ticket to accompany the child or teen home after traveling to their location.
Youth ages 18 to 21 can use one ticket in their lifetime while younger individuals can use the program twice in their lifetime.
The process must be initiated by a child or teen, who can do so by calling the NRS helpline at 1-800-RUNAWAY. Youth under 18 must have filed a runaway or missing person’s report with the police in the first five days of leaving home. For youth in foster care, child welfare staff are required to report all runaways to local law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Greyhound says 400 children and teens who have runaway from home use Home Free each year to return to their residence anywhere in the U.S.
A study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago found that runaway children are at risk for homelessness, illness, assault, exploitation and suicide. Additionally, the National Human Trafficking Hotline says that youth who runaway are also at risk of human trafficking.
“Anyone may run away from home when situations become devastating for them. And it is important to understand that a youth’s reason for leaving is unique to that individual. There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ runaway. Runaway youth come from every kind of neighborhood, rich or poor, rural or urban,” the NRS states on their website.
For more information on the Home Free Program, visit the NRS website.
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