All statistics listed on this page come from peer-reviewed journals and federal studies from the National Runaway Safeline.
The mission of the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) is to help keep America’s runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe and off the streets.NRS provides education and solution-focused interventions, offers non-sectarian, non-judgmental support, respects confidentiality, collaborates with volunteers, and responds to at-risk youth and their families 24 hours a day. NRS’ 1-800-RUNAWAY crisis hotline is available 24-hours a day throughout the United States and its territories, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. The organization serves as the federally designated national communication system for runaway and homeless youth.
Prevalence of runaways
Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year. 1 2
Youth aged 12-17 are at higher risk for homelessness than adults. 3 4
Motivations for running away
47% of runaway / homeless youth indicated that conflict between them and their parent or guardian was a major problem. 5 *
Over 50% of youth in shelters and on the streets reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving but did not care. 6
80% of runaway and homeless girls reported having ever been sexually or physically abused. 34% of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported sexual abuse before leaving home and forty-three percent of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported physical abuse before leaving home. 7
Childhood abuse increases youths’ risk for later victimization on the street. Physical abuse is associated with elevated risk of assaults for runaway and homeless youth, while sexual abuse is associated with higher risk of rape for runaway and homeless youth. 7
Risk factors associated with running away
Over 70% of runaway and throwaway youth in 2002 were estimated to be endangered, based on 17 indicators of harm or potential risk. The most common endangerment component was physical or sexual abuse at home or fear of abuse upon return. The second most common endangerment component was the youth’s substance dependency. 1
12% of runaway and homeless youth spent at least one night outside, in a park, on the street, under a bridge or overhang, or on a rooftop. 5 *
7% of youth in runaway and homeless youth shelters and 14% of youth on the street had traded sex for money, food, shelter, or drugs in the last twelve months when surveyed in 1995. 6
32% of runaway and homeless youth have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. 5 *
Approximately 48.2% of youth living on the street and 33.2% of youth living in a shelter reported having ever been pregnant. 8
50% of homeless youth age 16 or older reported having dropped out of school, having been expelled, or having been suspended. 9
Demographics of runaways
Runaway youth are 50% male and 50% female, although females are more likely to seek help through shelters and hotlines. 1
40% of youth in shelters and on the street have come from families that received public assistance or lived in publicly assisted housing. 6
* As indicated to shelter staff at a federally funded runaway or homeless shelter
Commercial Sexual Exploitation Of Children
From the 1-800 Runaway Nonprofit Organization.
If you feel your child is a runaway, please contact the below:
Keeping America’s runaway, homeless and at-risk youth safe and off the streets.
Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year.
Call 1-800-RUNAWAY if you are a teenager who is thinking of running from home, if you have a friend who has run and is looking for help, or if you are a runaway ready to go home.
Call 1-800-RUNAWAY if you care about a youth and want information on how you can help someone who may be at risk of running from home.
Call 1-800-RUNAWAY if you are a teacher looking for information to pass along to your students about youth homelessness or the reality of life on the streets.
Our 24-hour crisis line has an experienced front-line team member ready to help you now. If you’re not ready to call, you can post to our bulletin board, send an email, or start a live chat. It’s anonymous, confidential and free.
1. Hammer, H., Finkelhor, D., & Sedlak, A. (2002). Runaway / Thrownaway Children: National Estimates and Characteristics. National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
2. Greene, J. (1995). Youth with Runaway, Throwaway, and Homeless Experiences: Prevalence, Drug Use, and Other At-Risk Behaviors. Research Triangle Institute. HHS. ACF – ACYF.
3. Link, B., Susser, E., Stueve, A., Phelan, J., Moore, R., Struening, E. (1994). Lifetime and Five-year Prevalence of Homelessness in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 84, No. 12. pp 1907-1912.
4. Ringwalt, C., Greene, J., Robertson, M., & McPheeters, M. (1998). The Prevalence of Homelessness Among Adolescents in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 88, Iss. 9
5. Westat, Inc. 1997. National Evaluation of Runaway and Homeless Youth. Washinton, DC: US Dep’t of HHS, Admin on Children, Youth and Families.
6. Greene, J. (1995). Youth with Runaway, Throwaway, and Homeless Experiences: Prevalence, Drug Use, and Other At-Risk Behaviors Research Triangle Institute. HHS. ACF – ACYF.
7. Molnar, B., Shade, S., Kral, A., Booth, R., & Watters, J. (1998). Suicidal Behavior and Sexual / Physical Abuse Among Street Youth. Child Abuse & Neglect. Vol. 22, NO. 3, pp. 213-222.
8. Greene, J., & Ringwalt, C. (1998). Pregnancy Among Three National Samples of Runaway and Homeless Youth. Journal of Adolescent Health. 23; 6; pp. 370-377.
9. Homeless and Runaway Youth Receiving Services at federally Funded shelters. United States General Accounting Office. GAO/HRD-90-45
10. Walls, E., & Bell, S. (2011). Correlates of Engaging in Survival Sex among Homeless Youth and Young Adults. Journal of Sex Research, 48(5), 423–436.
11. Greene, J., Ennett, S., & Ringwalt, C. (1999). Prevalence and Correlates of Survival Sex Among Runaway and Homeless Youth. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 89, No. 9.