November is National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM) and Catholic Charities is asking for your help. While trying to survive on the streets, youth are exposed to countless dangers, with an increased likelihood of substance abuse, early parenthood, impulsivity, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and a vulnerability to being trafficked. There are runaway and homeless youth in every community: urban, suburban, and rural.

Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year. If all these young people lived in one city, it would be the fifth largest city in the United States. These numbers are unacceptable, particularly when you consider the fact that many of these young people will end up on the streets. These are not bad kids; they are good kids in bad situations.

Runaway and homeless youth often do not look like the stereotype of an adult who has become homeless. They often try to hide their situation and therefore the issue remains invisible. By supporting NRPM, you are showing America’s runaway and homeless youth that they are not invisible, and they are not alone.

Locally, Catholic Charities, in partnership with the Schuyler County Youth Bureau, operates the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program serving anyone 10-24 years old who has run away or who is at risk of running away. The 24-hour hotline can be reached by calling or texting 607-742-9629 any time.

Catholic Charities and the Youth Bureau are seeking Volunteer Host Homes to take in runaway youth. Volunteers receive training and youth stay in the home 30 days or less. If you are interested in becoming a Host Home, please contact Candice at 607-535-2050, ext. 206.

When a youth runs away, the impact is felt throughout the entire community. All of us—individuals, businesses, community groups, teachers, elected officials, and human service agencies—are encouraged to participate in National Runaway Prevention Month. There is a positive return on investment for those willing to invest in ending youth homelessness. Helping a young person before they turn to a lifetime on the streets saves society money in social programs, medical expenses, law enforcement, and other costs. Working together to identify resources and to help youth develop life skills can make the difference between a youth running away or finding needed resources.