The Home Free program helps around 400 kids each year
As the holidays wrap up and the new year begins, Greyhound Bus Lines is again reminding people of their service to help reunite runaway kids with their families or legal guardians.
The bus company has partnered with the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) since 1987 to offer Greyhound’s Home Free program which allows youth to get home to their families at no cost to them. The program helps around 400 kids and teens every year get a free ride home anywhere in the U.S.
“To be eligible for a Greyhound ticket home, the child has to call the NRS helpline, be between 12 and 21 years old, be named on a runaway report and be willing to be reunited with their family (and vice versa),” according to Greyhound. The same person can only use a ticket through this program on two occasions and it also provides a free ticket for the parent or legal guardian if the person is under the age of 15.
According to its website, the NRS offers “a crisis hotline and online services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to youth at risk of running away, those who have run away or are homeless, and their families.” Some of the services include crisis intervention, message relays, referrals, and advocacy programs. The NRS has responded to nearly 90,000 calls, through its 24-hour hotline, email, chat, and online forums and 85 percent who contact NRS are 18 years of age or younger; and nearly 70 percent are women.
The NRS reports between 1.6-2.8 million youth runaway each year in the United States. Children can begin running as young as age ten — the youngest are the most at-risk for life on the streets.
The stories behind why some kids chose to leave home are heartbreaking. Nearly half (47 percent) of runaway youth report conflict between them and a parent/guardian in the home, over 50 percent of youth in shelters or on the streets reported that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving but did not care, 80 percent of runaway and homeless girls reported having been sexually or physically abused, and 43 percent of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported physical abuse before leaving home. Others come from loving homes that desperately wish their child would return.
Life on the street for these kids is rarely safe. Over 70 percent of runaway youth have been considered to be endangered and 14 percent of youth on the street have traded sex for money, food, shelter, or drugs; one-third have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
To find out more about National Runaway Safeline, people can visit www.1800runaway.org and if you or someone you know has run away and wants to come home, call toll-free 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929) to find out more about eligibility.