National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

New Report Provides a Snapshot of Youth in Crisis

Young man wearing a hoodie standing in tunnel.

What it's about: In November 2017, FYSB and the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) released the National Runaway Safeline Crisis Contacts Report. This report provides key information on the thousands of youth in crisis who contacted NRS in 2016. In addition to the data collected by NRS during interactions with people who contacted the Safeline, the report also comments on and analyzes the data to identify trends and illuminate reasons youth contacted NRS. NRS responded to 29,806 inquiries from youth and adults seeking help and information. Almost 75 percent of contacts were youth, 9 percent identified themselves as parents, and 6 percent said they contacted NRS about a friend. Twenty-eight percent of crisis contacts were about youth on the street, down from 56 percent of contacts in 2011, reflecting a trend of more youth seeking help before they are in a dangerous situation. Of contacts regarding youth on the street, 5,446 were depending on friends and relatives, 715 on shelters and soup kitchens, and 562 on employment. Panhandling and engaging in survival sex were also listed as means of survival on the street, with 180 and 106 reports, respectively. Crisis contacts reported many issues, including family dynamics (22,592 reports), emotional and/or verbal abuse (6,221 reports), and physical abuse or assault (4,395 reports). The Safeline provided numerous services and referrals in 2016, such as facilitating conference calls between youth and youth-serving organizations (2,436), relaying messages between parents or guardians and children (71), arranging conference calls between parents or guardians and children (519), and issuing 398 bus tickets through Greyhound’s Home Free program. Most contacts learn about NRS via the Internet (67 percent) or word of mouth (11 percent).

Takeaways: The fact that an increasing proportion of youth contact NRS before running away is an encouraging trend. Safeline volunteers help encourage these youth to work through their problems before they end up on the street. Still, however, almost 8,000 youth were on the street and depending on friends and relatives, soup kitchens, or pandhandling or other means to meet their basic needs. NRS can draw upon a database of around 10,000 resources nationwide in addition to NRS-specific services and volunteers offer multiple options to youth in crisis - an average of 3.6 per contact. 

Read the National Runaway Safeline Crisis Contacts Report