For more than a decade, Greyhound Lines has partnered with the National Runaway Safeline, an organization that seeks to keep runaway and homeless youth safe, to reunite young people with their families and guardians.
To get a free ticket home, a person between the ages of 12 and 21 must call the NRS helpline (1-800-RUNAWAY). They also must be named on a runaway report and be willing to return to their family. The family or guardian also needs to agree to receive them at home.
If the individual hoping to return home is under the age of 15, Home Free also provides a free ticket for the child's parent or guardian.
A person can only get a ticket home through the program twice.
More than just a ticket
Before a young person begins the journey home, National Runaway Safeline says it works with him or her and guardians to create a plan for a return and locates resources in the community that will be able to provide support once the person is settled.
After the family is reunited, the group says it follows up to make sure the family member arrived home safely and provides additional resources.
Why children run away from home
The National Runaway Safeline is careful to emphasize that children who run away from home are not "bad" kids. Runaway children, the organization says, are usually running away from something, not toward something.
"They are dealing with a situation that feels overwhelming," National Runaway Safeline says, "be it family dynamics, bullying, gender identity or being lured from home over the internet. They believe living anywhere else is better, even if this means living on the streets."
Nearly half of the youth interviewed by the organization say they were thrown out of their homes. Their reasons vary, but commonly include significant family conflict that had been happening for some time.
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