The LGBT Health & Development Program

National Runaway Prevention Month

Posted on November 27th, 2012 by Gayle in Featured, Youth Blog. No Comments

Every year there are between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth who run away from home or are forced out of their homes.[i]  According to the National Network of Runaway and Youth Services, 6% of homeless youth are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.  In Chicago, the Lakeview Action Coalition reports that about 15,000 youth in Chicago are homeless at some point during each year and LGBT youth make up a disproportionate number of homeless youth.[ii]  Family rejection and abuse in the family are the major reasons for LGBT youth homelessness.[iii]

It’s risky to be living on the streets – many runaways engage in survival sex or sell drugs in order to earn money, which puts them at higher risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse problems, and physical and sexual victimization.[iv]  The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless survey of 200 homeless youth found that “33% of the youth had been physically attacked, 20% had been raped or sexually assaulted after leaving home, and 12% had engaged in prostitution.”[v]

If you’re thinking about running away, first think about these questions from the National Runaway Switchboard:[vi]

What else can I do to improve my home situation before I leave?

How will I survive?

Is running away safe?

Who can I count on to help me?

Have I given this enough thought?

What are my other options?

If I end up in trouble, who will I call?

If I return home, what will happen?

 If you call 1-800-RUNAWAY, the volunteers at the crisis line will help you think through your options and provide information on local resources.

If you’re currently a runaway, where can you go for help?

You can call the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS) at 1-800-RUNAWAY from anywhere in the country. They will listen to you, relay messages between you and your parents if you want, and even give you a “Home Free” ticket on a Greyhound bus – and make sure you safely get to the bus station. If you’re not ready to talk to someone, you can also email the NRS at or post on their bulletin boards

You can also get help through the National Safe Place program. If you see this sign at a school, fire station, library, grocery or convenience store, subway or bus station, YMCA or other public building you can go in and ask an employee for help. The employee will then contact a Safe Place agency or volunteer to come over and help you. Or, if you’re in trouble or need help, text SAFE and your current location (address/city/state) to 69866. You will receive a text back with information on the closest youth shelter, as well as an opportunity to chat with a professional.

In Chicago, The Night Ministry provides support, food, housing, and other services to homeless and LGBT youth in the Lakeview neighborhood. Teens can call the Open Door Youth Shelter in Lakeview toll-free at 1-877-286-2523 or in West Town at 1-877-286-2523.

 Know your options.  Be smart and be safe.

[i] National Runaway Switchboard

[iii] Durso, LE & Gates, GJ (2012). Serving our Youth: Findings from a National Survey of Service Providers Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth Who Are Homeless or At Risk of Becoming Homeless. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute with True Colors Fund and The Palette Fund.

[iv] National Runaway Switchboard.  National Runaway Switchboard 2012 Reporter’s Source Book on Runaway and Homeless Youth: A guide for media about runaway and homeless youth. July 2012.

[v] Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

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