Running away from home is a last resort that you should only try in the most serious situations. In many cases, running away could make the problem you're trying to escape even worse, and it could also be difficult for you to find a place to live. Keep all this in mind and make sure you have exhausted all the options that you have available before you start considering the possibility of fleeing your home and, in the event that it is your last resort, do not make hasty decisions, consider that your safety should always be your first priority.
If you are considering running away from home or have already done so and need to speak to someone, check out the additional resources section at the end of this article.
Method 1 of 3: Assess the situation
Step 1. Have a good reason to leave
Don't run away from home for fun, in search of adventure, or to teach your parents a lesson. Keep in mind that it is difficult to live in the harsh environment of the street and that nature will not provide you with blankets when you are cold, or food when you are hungry. If you are being abused or neglected, the safest solution is to go to the police.
Some teens, especially those with troubled families, think foster homes are a worse option than running away. Whatever your experience, most foster parents really do take care of the health and well-being of the children they foster
Step 2. Don't hold on to false perceptions
Running away from home is difficult, you will be away from the places you are familiar with, from the people you know and who support you, and you will also have to take full responsibility for meeting all your basic needs. Even adults are struggling with everyday life, so don't think it will be any different for you.
- You may feel like running away from home is your only solution, but this kind of thinking is never correct. There are always many solutions to a problem and running away should be the last you are willing to try.
- As a teenager, you will find it difficult to earn money to pay for food and accommodation. Unfortunately, because of this, around 1 in 3 teens who run away resort to exchanging sexual favors for food or a place to sleep. This will put you at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, sexual abuse, or being manipulated.
Step 3. Assess your motives for running away
You may think that your reasons for running away are a strong justification for doing so. However, it may be difficult for you to think clearly when your feelings are too involved. Take some time to think carefully about the reasons you want to run away, get the broadest perspective you can on your problem. Make sure you are not making a hasty decision.
It's never okay to run away from home because of your:
- alcohol consumption
- consumption of drugs
- feelings of failure
Step 4. Consider seeking anonymous advice
Keep in mind that there are hotlines for teens who are going through difficult situations and that they are well equipped to listen to your problem and offer you specific advice. There may be solutions to your situation that you haven't considered that are safer than running away from home and talking to someone could help you find these solutions.
- If you live in the United States, the National Runaway Safeline line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can request assistance at 1-800-786-2929 or visit the Safeline website at: https://www.1800runaway.org. If you live in another country, do some research on the internet for available help lines.
- Remember that no matter how difficult your situation or how lonely you feel, there are people who are very interested in your safety and well-being.
Step 5. Understand the nature of your problem
While running away from home may take you away from the problem you're facing, it won't fix it or make you feel better about the way you've been treated. In fact, you could cause whatever is happening to you to start happening to someone else.
Method 2 of 3: Prepare to Run
Step 1. Plan ahead
Consider that if you run away from home without proper preparation, you could put your life in danger. Take as much time as you need to come up with an action plan. It is important that you consider where you will go, transportation, employment, and shelter. Gather supplies in advance, these could include:
- change for the laundry
- first aid kit
- sleeping bag
- 2 changes of clothes
- 2 changes of underwear and 2 bras
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- tampons or sanitary pads
- hair brush
- water bottle
- non-perishable foods (granola bars, canned)
- pepper spray
Step 2. Travel light
Carrying too much weight can prevent you from moving quickly if necessary. As a teenager who ran away from home, there will be many homeless bigger and stronger than you and if you have to escape, you will have to be quick and avoid human comforts preventing you from running. Just pack what is necessary. Carry as much cash as you can, but be careful with credit or debit cards because they can be traced. Pack considering your destination. If you are going to a place with cold weather, your main concern should be staying warm.
Keep in mind that in arid climates, such as the desert, it is very cold at night. A lightweight thermal blanket could save your life
Step 3. Choose a safe place to stay
Consider that it is not recommended that you stay in a forest, park or nature reserve. All it could take is one stumble to end up with a broken ankle and cut off from all possible medical help. If you want to live in the country, be sure to travel the main routes, where you can ask for help if necessary. If you live in a city or will be escaping to an urban area, try to find shelter. If you don't have any safe options, try to rest in a crowded place during the day. Sleep on a blanket in the park or on the beach during the day, this will make you look less suspicious and look more like someone normal taking a nap.
- A place with public transport is a good choice, as it is cheaper and faster than other options.
- A bicycle could be useful to you, but its weight and safety could result in more problems than solutions.
- Bridges offer protection from the elements, and concrete will keep you warm throughout the day and night. Beware of strangers if you are trying to sleep under a bridge, as this is a popular choice among the homeless.
- If you decide to go to a homeless shelter, you will need to prepare to answer questions when you arrive.
- The most recommended thing is that you consider going to the house of a friend or relative, but if you choose this option keep in mind that you will have to obey the rules of the place. You will always have to respect the home of others.
Step 4. Find a place where you can get the help you need
The most important thing you can do after you have fled from your bad situation is to find a place to heal. Whatever the trauma that forced you to run away from home, it is very likely that you have developed some problems that you need to heal before starting to live a healthy and happy life. Before leaving, research the area you will be going to and find temporary shelters, detox centers, or counseling centers to get the help you need.
If you turned to drug or alcohol use as a way to deal with the problems you faced, this in turn will cause you more physical and emotional damage. Do not blame yourself, consider that what you suffered pushed you into a vulnerable situation. However, you cannot be truly well on your own until you treat and resolve your addictions or dependencies
Step 5. Consider making an anonymous report
Even if you have already resolved that you will never return home, there may be other people who are suffering from the same abuse or neglect that you suffered. Especially if you have siblings, please consider making an anonymous call or report to your local police, domestic violence or child help lines from a public phone or from a friend. If you live in the United States, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the Child Helpline.
- The phone number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline in the United States is (800) 799-7233.
- The telephone number for the Child Helpline in the United States is (800) 422-4453.
Step 6. Think about the job in advance
As a teenager, you will need to present a parent's permission and other information, such as an address and your social security number, even to work in a fast food establishment. Keep in mind that in time you will run out of provisions and money, so you will need to find a way to earn what you need to support yourself. When applying for a job, suggest that you want to earn a little extra money by working "outside the system," which means that your employer will pay you directly and in secret, usually in cash. The following are some of the out-of-system job options you can consider:
- waitress (restaurant)
- landscaping or gardening
- baby sister
- assistant in a moving service
Method 3 of 3: Live Away From Home
Step 1. Escape from your situation
Leave when no one sees you and make sure they don't notice your absence right away. For example, when you run away you might want to show up to class and pretend you're sick so you can get out earlier, or you could leave when everyone goes to sleep. This will give you a few hours to put distance between yourself and where you are escaping from. Try to get as far as possible before stopping to rest. To make it more difficult to find yourself, it is recommended that you leave the city and then the state.
- A train or a bus can take you very far for a low price. Wear a peaked cap or hood to keep your face covered and avoid being detected on a security camera.
- To be more inconspicuous, dye your hair a common color that is different from your natural color or cut it short. Make sure your new cut or dye doesn't look messy, as someone could question your appearance if you're not careful.
- Wear clothes that you rarely or never wear. You can always buy a few different clothes for a low price at a thrift store so you won't be wearing anything that can identify you.
Step 2. Always prioritize food
Food is your priority, you can fill a water bottle almost anywhere, but pay attention to the signs that say "Not drinkable" as this means that the water cannot be drunk. Take whatever food you can find, accept whatever is offered, and make sure you eat it before it spoils, even when you're not hungry.
Step 3. Have good hygiene habits
This will be especially important when you start looking for a job, but it will also prevent the police from arresting you for loitering (begging). Stay away from dangerous places where thieves and rapists could lurk, including alleys or secluded areas of parks. Although cleanliness is important, try to make your appearance as less sexually attractive as possible in order to protect yourself from predators.
Dress like you're going to school or a casual church event, not like you're going to a party. Clothes with lots of pockets will give you places to store necessary supplies
Step 4. Never resort to prostitution or to use alcohol or drugs
Don't let anyone pay you for sex, this could result in you being hurt, robbed, or the person refusing to pay you when they are done with you. Also, the person may wait until you are vulnerable to ask you to go further than is comfortable for you. You will need your money to buy the things you will need to survive, do not waste your limited monetary resources on alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.
Even if other teens who have run away or homeless abuse drugs and alcohol and even offer you, always decline the offer. You will find it difficult to defend yourself when you are drunk, high or incapacitated
Step 5. Detect the places where you can attend to your needs
Public or private bathrooms, although they are not the most comfortable, are good for taking care of your hygiene. Prepare an answer in case someone questions you. A response like "I've been traveling with my mom all day, we're going to my grandparents' house. We made a stop to freshen up" could prevent the person from calling the police. Women can use a waxing product, such as Nair, to maintain their good looks. Try not to arouse suspicion when you carry out your hygiene routine.
Step 6. Take care of your safety
There are many tools you can use to stay safe, such as a whistle for help if someone tries to rape you, a pepper spray, or a Swiss army knife, that you can use both to protect yourself and in the event of an emergency. Keep your tool well hidden but accessible at all times. It is advisable that you keep your money in your underwear, not in your socks or bra, which are the places that many thieves look first.
- If someone says to you "I saw last night that you had money", reply that you have already spent it all, even if you still have some.
- Have a wallet or secondary bag on view with some bills and coins. This way, if they rob you, they will take only that instead of all your money.
- If you run out of money to buy food, be careful when you order. This will attract attention and, in some cases, upset other homeless people. Also, in some places it is illegal to beg.
- A supermarket that offers free samples is a good place to find food without attracting attention. If someone asks you, you can always say that you are waiting for your mother.
Step 7. Don't steal
This is not only illegal and immoral, it will attract the attention of other people, including the police. Keep in mind that stealing can result in more serious consequences than having to return to the place you escaped from.
Step 8. Have answers to the questions
People are likely to ask you questions if they see you on the street during school hours or brushing your teeth in a public bathroom. Do not respond with the first thing that comes to mind, think of a story that explains your situation and stick to it, this will avoid inconsistencies that make people question you. Think ahead about what they might say to you in response to your story so that you are prepared with an easy-to-believe plot.
Step 9. Don't use your cell phone
Keep in mind that it can be used to find you when you have run away from home, but in an emergency, it could save your life. Keeping your cell phone off will prevent you from being tracked, you can also replace your SIM card.
|National Runaway Safeline||(800) 786-2929|
|The Trevor Project (LGBTQ)||(866) 488-7386|
|The National Domestic Violence Hotline||(800) 799-7233|
- Run away from home only if you have no alternative. This decision can have a serious and permanent negative impact on your life. You could be injured, or even killed, away from the protection of your community, your friends, and your family. If someone is abusing you, call the police.
- Don't fidget, stutter, or hesitate when you're lying. This could cause people not to believe you.
- Speak only when they speak to you and always stick to the same lie about who you are, what you are doing, etc. You don't want someone to realize that everything is a lie by telling different stories.
- Never stay in the same place for long. You don't want to be viewed as a bummer or someone wondering what you are doing.
- Remember, you want to be as inconspicuous as possible. Don't attract attention. Try to look like a normal passerby. This means that you will have to maintain good hygiene and wear clean and appropriate clothing.
- Always have a way to defend yourself. You may want to consider exercising and doing some training before you run away from home.
- Never lie to him or run away from the police. This will raise suspicions and give the impression that you are doing something illegal. If you are stopped by an officer, you will have to tell the truth because lying, fighting or running away could cause you more serious problems.
- Pack essentials, like a flashlight, blankets, etc. Remember to include as many non-perishable foods (cookies, nuts, granola, canned) as possible.
- If you can't cut or color yourself and change your natural hair style, consider wearing a wig that looks NATURAL. This will help you hide your identity and make you look like a different person. However, don't wear a wig that looks "childish," such as a bright or rainbow-colored one, because it will attract a lot of attention.
- As mentioned before, it is recommended that you have a simple knife or a Swiss army knife. This could save you in some cases and you can use it as a personal defense weapon, but keep in mind that it is very likely to attract a lot of attention and that the police could find it.
- Try to find a safe place to stay at night. You don't want to wander the streets at night as there is a higher chance that you will come across a criminal.
- If you decide to go to a shelter for runaway teens, keep in mind that they will contact your parents if they recognize you. It is better to go to a hostel outside your city of origin, so that no one will recognize you.
- Unless you are escaping from an abusive home, in which case it is best to call the police, leave a note for your parents so they don't think you were abducted. Write something simple, just explaining that you ran away from home.
- Always have appropriate clothing. Take with you a warm and resistant jacket, sturdy footwear (boots, tennis) and also clothing for hot weather.
- Don't get too confident. Being overconfident can make you an easy target, and it could also make you easier to find.