Runaway Shelters for Troubled Teens

How programs can help when a teen runs away from home

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A troubled teen who makes the decision to run away from home needs a safe place to stay and assistance in addressing the issues that led to the decision. Runaway shelters are designed to help those teens and can provide assistance to parents and guardians in helping a teen transition back to home.

What Is a Teen Runaway Shelter?

Runaway shelters and programs for teens provide temporary housing, food, and specialized counseling to troubled teens who run away from home. They provide a safe place for teens to face and confront their problems. Shelters help families determine the next steps necessary for dealing with these issues.

Services Provided by Runaway Shelters

The overall goal of shelters for runaways is to assist in reuniting families, identify issues, and help resolve them.​ Temporary shelters can provide a place for your teen to live while dealing with the reasons for running and the consequences of their decision to do so.

Runaway shelters provide some or all of the following services:

  • Temporary shelter and a safe place to stay
  • Individual therapy to help teens articulate their reasons for running
  • Regular meals
  • Group therapy with other teens in similar situations
  • Counseling by phone for teens who call in
  • Resources for work, academic, medical, and other needs
  • Family therapy focused on dealing with the crisis caused by the teen leaving

How Runaway Shelters Can Help

When a teen agrees to go to a runaway shelter, they make a healthy decision to seek support and start taking responsibility to resolve the problems they are experiencing. Runaway shelters are established and run by staff trained to understand, work with, and advocate for teens who run from problems or difficult family situations.

Shelters can assist in this family crisis by helping to:

  • Identify the problems causing the teen to run
  • Be an intermediary to help understand why your teen ran away
  • Work out an initial contract outlining the conditions a teen needs to follow once returning home
  • Discuss alternative living situations for the teen while problems get worked out
  • Provide referrals to family therapists in your area
  • Offer direction to a variety of resources to assist your teen with the problems they are having
  • Determine the next steps to deal with the problems your teen is running away from
  • A free bus ticket home is available in many cases

How to Locate a Shelter in Your Area

Youth can access the Safe Place system to connect with those who can help in their situation and find the location of youth shelters. Their TXT 4 HELP program allows you to text the word SAFE and your current location (address/city/state) to 44357 to be connected to a Safe Place site.

To help locate a runaway shelter, call the National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-RUNAWAY anytime. They will respond via phone, text, or email. You can also search online for a listing of shelters in your area.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Family & Youth Services Bureau. Basic Center Program Fact Sheet.

  2. National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Increasing staff skills.

  3. National Runaway Safeline. Frequently Asked Questions: Runaway Hotline and Online Crisis Hotline Service.