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Here at Alternatives For Girls, we believe all young people deserve a safe and empowering environment, which is why we acknowledge November as National Runaway Prevention Month and National Youth Homelessness Month. The pandemic has exacerbated this growing crisis of houseless adolescents. On a single night in 2020, 34,210 adolescents were counted as houseless, 90 percent of whom were between the ages of 18 and 24. Many of them have run away from home, a number estimated to be between 1.6 million and 2.8 million each year according to the National Runaway Safeline. This means that millions of children and young adults are vulnerable to the physical, mental and emotional harm that comes with housing insecurity. They are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors necessary for their survival, more likely to be exploited for sex and drug trafficking, and less likely to receive basic necessities, such as medical treatment for mental and physical illnesses.
Despite the dangers houseless children face, they can be harshly stigmatized. They are often blamed for their decision to run away, labeled as “bad” kids that need punishment and discipline. But the overwhelming majority of children and adolescents on the street are not there by choice. They are forced there by a complex system of violence and oppression that impacts their lives on an interpersonal and institutional scale. This National Runaway Prevention Month, we must challenge and change the systemic issues that contribute to the growing crisis.