Since 1987, Greyhound’s partnership with the National Runaway Safeline has helped reunite runaway children with their families or guardians at no cost. Kids and teens can get to where they need to go anywhere in the U.S. The program is called Home Free and it helps approximately 400 kids yearly.

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Greyhound says, “To be eligible for a Greyhound ticket home, the child has to call the NRS helpline, be between 12 and 21 years old, be named on a runaway report and be willing to be reunited with their family (and vice versa).” A qualifying child can use the program twice. A free ticket is also available to a parent or guardian if the child is under 15. The process to get home starts by calling the NRS.

The NRS runs a 24-hour hotline and online services for runaways, children who are thinking about running away from home and to homeless children and their families. The services include crisis intervention, information and referrals, conference calling between children and families, and mediation.

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Of the nearly 90,000 calls made to NRS, 85 percent are from children 18 and younger, and 69 percent are young women and girls. Between 1.6 and 2.8 million children leave their homes as runaways each year.

The reasons these children choose to risk the streets rather than stay home vary. The top reasons are family conflicts, abuse or neglect and social problems. Many also come from loving homes where families yearn for their child’s return.

So many dangers await a young person on the street and the abuse these kids encounter affect them into adulthood. They are three times more likely to attempt suicide and almost three times more likely to be arrested. They are also 72 percent more likely to receive welfare and twice as likely to smoke.

If you’re interested in seeing more about the mission and services of the NRS, visit their website, 1800runaway.org  You can also call or refer the number, 1-800-RUNAWAY, or 1-800-786-2929, if you or someone you know has run away and now wants to go home.

Children shouldn’t be living on the streets. They need loving homes and families. And, perhaps, a little help to get there.