It’s a question that a lot of people don’t know the answer to. Sometimes even when their own children run away, a parent or guardian can find themselves wondering why this is happening and what they can do about it. The good news is that while the problem isn’t a simple one, there are some common reasons why youth choose to run, and there are resources that can be reached out to if you need help.
Here are some of the most common reasons that youth run away from home or end up homeless.
#1: Family Conflict
A large number of youth who run away do so because they are running from family conflict, which can come in many different forms. Often, youth who are abused, whether physically, emotionally, or sexually, will regularly leave home to escape what they are going through. Other scenarios could include things such as an unwanted divorce or remarriage, or foster children who feel unwelcome or are dealing with trauma from their past.
Children can also be victims of neglect via their parents refusing to provide them shelter. This can happen for a myriad of reasons, but some of the most common include the child’s sexual orientation or gender identity not being accepted by their family, the child struggling in school or dropping out of school, or the child acting out and causing issues in the household. Whatever the reason, it is important to note that under Michigan law, a parent or guardian kicking their child out of the house is classified as neglect.
#3: Financial Difficulty & Family Homelessness
Another scenario is that financial difficulty within the household can cause family homelessness, which can lead to a child being displaced and without shelter. At times, children may separate from their parents in this type of situation due to shelter rules or availability, resulting in them being without familial support as well. This situation can present in many different ways.
#4: Aging Out of Foster Care
Youth in foster care are often coming from backgrounds that can include many of the triggers for running away mentioned above. When they turn 18, these youth age out of the system, and can often find themselves effectively homeless. While the system may unfortunately not support them in the way they deserve, one option in this situation may be a Graduated Apartment Program like the one provided by the Sanctuary at Common Ground (more information about this program can be found below) to aid them in navigating their way forward with respect to housing and life skills.
While a good starting point, these four reasons are hardly an exhaustive list of explanations for why youth run away or end up homeless. Everyone’s situation is unique and requires care, whether the goal is for family reunification or for a youth to eventually be self-sufficient. Often, youth and their families may not realize the options they have for support in their community.
The Sanctuary at Common Ground is a runaway and homeless youth shelter that provides services to youth and their parents or guardians, including the basic center Sanctuary program which allows for youth ages 11-17 to stay in the shelter for three weeks with regular individual and family counseling, the A Step Forward program which allows for youth ages 16-17 to stay in the shelter for up to two years, and the Graduated Apartment Program (GAP), which allows for youth ages 18-24 to stay in apartments with reduced rent payments and the support of staff case managers. Additionally, the Sanctuary provides a Mentoring Program for youth who have survived or are at risk for human trafficking and the Empowerment Initiative which facilitates outreach, whether strictly informational or in the form of art therapy, in the community.
You can call the Sanctuary at 248-547-2260 to inquire about any of our programs. We are located at 751 Hendrie Boulevardin Royal Oak.
Author: May Freck, Youth Empowerment Coordinator at Common Ground