National Runaway Prevention Month: Promoting Awareness

All races, hands joined together.

National Runaway Prevention Month is here, and this year’s campaign theme is, “Friends Helping Friends.” According to The National Runaway Safeline and the National Network for Youth, co-sponsors of the annual campaign, young people frequently learn about resources for homeless youth through word-of-mouth from friends and other trustworthy, caring individuals.

Highlighted below are a few ways to communicate about youth homelessness:

  • Share statistics. Statistics can be powerful tools for creating dialogue around the needs of runaway and homeless youth. One useful statistic that demonstrates the magnitude of the issue comes from the Safeline’s website: “Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year. If all of these young people lived in one city, it would be the fifth largest city in the United States.” You can find more statistics here.
  • Use talking points. Educating others about the life experiences of homeless youth is another way to increase knowledge and understanding. This year’s toolkit (PDF, 972 KB) includes a list of eight talking points to get the conversation started. Here are two of them, supported with additional information from NCFY:
    • “Runaway and homeless youth are not ‘bad kids,’ they are typically good kids caught in bad situations.” In fact, most homeless youth have histories of complex trauma that include experiences such as childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to community violence.
    • “Young people on the street are often perceived as ‘bad kids’ if/when they engage in risky behaviors. The reality is that many of these young people do not engage in these behaviors until they are already on the streets, and only do so for survival or to cope.” A survey in Los Angeles, Denver, New Orleans and St. Louis showed that the longer youth experienced homelessness, the more likely they were to be transient, addicted to substances and engaged in survival strategies.
  • Share a message and story. On Wednesday, November 23, the Safeline will post a “selfie sign” on their website,, so people around the country can participate in “Selfie Sign Day.” To participate,  the National Runaway Safeline instructs participants to take a photo of themselves holding a sign with the words, “This is how I have helped a friend...” written on it. Participants are then encouraged to share the photo on social media accompanied with a story about how they supported a friend.
  • Post and re-tweet. The National Runaway Safeline will be posting campaign messages all month long on social media, so make sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and share posts and tweets.

Use this year’s suggested activities to jumpstart a year-round campaign to end and prevent youth homelessness!

More on Runaway and Homeless Youth

College Readiness Programs Lead to Success for San Francisco Homeless Youth

Peer Groups Affect Substance Use in Homeless Youth

Pop-Up “Care Villages” Combine Services with Dignity and Engagement for Homeless Youth

Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, or the Administration for Children and Families.

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