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Runaway and Homeless Youth

Youth runaways and homelessness is often linked to justice system involvement. Research has shown that these children also face a range of challenges related to their health, emotional well-being, safety, and development.
Find Help
Get help for runaway and homeless youth by calling 1-800-786-2929 or texting 66008.

OJJDP Efforts

OJJDP is working to address these issues through several programs such as mentoring, drug treatment courts, reentry, partnerships, and research.

This work includes partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the National Network for Youth. OJJDP also has funded research to provide national estimates of missing children based on surveys of households, juvenile residential facilities, and law enforcement agencies.

"Criminalizing homelessness further marginalizes and disadvantages this already vulnerable youth population, which does no one any good."
OJJDP Administrator Caren Harp

In March 2018, OJJDP staff participated in the National Summit on Youth Homelessness, where they highlighted how the Department of Justice and OJJDP are working to address youth homelessness.

These at-risk youth populations are significant. Between 1.6 million and 2.8 million youth run away each year, according to the National Runaway Safeline and HHS. The National Runaway Safeline provides a 24-hour crisis hotline and online services to youth who are at risk of running away or who have runaway or are homeless.

In the 2015‒16 school year, 1.4 million students, or about 3 percent of students in public elementary or secondary schools, were reported as homeless, according to America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2018.

National Runaway Prevention Month

November is National Runaway Prevention Month, a time to bring attention and focus to the issues impacting runaway, homeless, and other at-risk youth.

Additional Resources

Family Interventions for Youth Experiencing or At Risk of Homelessness Access family intervention practices from this U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-sponsored report.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Learn about trainings, programs, and outreach efforts.

Office for Victims of Crime: Missing Children Access programs, publications, resources, and funding opportunities.

Runaway & Homeless Youth Programs Learn about outreach, shelters, transitional living, and group home programs.

Youth.gov: Homelessness and Runaway View online resources, tools, and guides on homelessness and runaways.