So You Want To Run Away From Home

Collaboratively written by @MolotovMocktail, @kaichulita, @EphemeralStick, @Tude, and @7xMichael

Sometimes, we get questions on Squat the Planet from minors asking for advice about running away from home. Our general policy is to discourage minors from traveling, but this post serves to provide help and resources to any minors who are considering running away from home because of their rough situation. This is by no means the ultimate guide and we encourage readers to try out the resources that will be listed later on.

PART I: Why run away?

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to run away from home. You may be experiencing abuse or neglect at home. You may be having problems at school, such as bullying. Maybe you’re just tired of everyday life and want an adventure.

Let’s face it, being a teenager is hard. High school sucks. It’s understandable that you might want to get away from that. However, the next section will give reasons as to why that’s an unwise choice.

PART II: Why you shouldn’t run away

The idea of traveling is very romantic, but the reality is much more difficult than you might realize. Traveling, especially the kind described on this site, is dangerous. Activities such as train hopping can certainly be deadly, but that isn’t the only thing to be worried about. People on the road can be just as harmful. There are a lot of nice people out there but there are also creeps who will take advantage of you. We won’t get into graphic details, but suffice to say that a homeless minor on their own could be an appealing target to some people.

Having a hard time on the road is inevitable, especially for someone who is running away. According to The National Runaway Safeline, more than 70 percent of teen runaways interviewed “described their leaving home as occurring on the spur of the moment.” That means that you are most likely ill-prepared and are acting impulsive. Traveling requires a person to think clearly and adapt to the situation at hand. You might not have money, food, or even a sleeping bag. You probably won’t know where to go or how to get there. This will be a huge problem, because even getting food will become difficult. This may sound like a scare tactic, but the truth is, many kids turn to selling drugs or prostitution in order to survive. The National Runaway Safeline reports that 14% of youth on the street have traded sex for money, food, shelter, or drugs.

Travelers in the USA tend to be a rough bunch and alcoholism and drug abuse are major issues that face the community. By running away, you will be exposing yourself to a world that you may not be able to handle, and in fact may even make your own physical, mental, or emotional state even worse.

Travelers are at a higher risk of disease and infection due to limited ability to maintain proper hygiene. Scabies, staph/MRSA infections, body lice, and fungal infections are commonplace. Hepatitis C is also common for intravenous drug users.

Let’s say that you aren’t having problems surviving on the road. The law is still not on your side. The chances that you’re going to get stopped by the cops at some point are high and they will probably run your name in the system. The American Bar Association reports that almost every state allows the police to take runaway youth into custody without a court order and without the youth’s permission. Five states (Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, and South Carolina) explicitly allow police to hold runaway youth in detention facilities and many additional states also allow this practice although it is not written into their laws. Thirty-six states explicitly authorize police to return runaway youth directly to their homes without considering the youth’s wishes. Basically, if you’re stopped by the cops and they suspect that you’re a minor, you’re going to get in some trouble.

Furthermore, anyone who helps you could potentially get into legal trouble. The people who give you shelter or transportation may be considered to be “harboring” a runaway and could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. By running away, you are causing trouble for not only yourself, but others around you.

PART III: Alternatives to running away

If you can continue staying where you are, you should. That being said, you shouldn’t have to tolerate abuse. If you absolutely have to leave home immediately, try to stay with a friend or a close family member for a night or two while you figure things out. However, do not forget the information above on harboring minors, because your parents/guardians could try to get the person you’re staying with in trouble. Seek help from one of the resources listed below specific to the issue you’re dealing with. Try to find an adult who you can trust to confide in, such as a teacher, counselor, neighbor, or friend. Having someone to just talk to can help you immensely mentally and they will be able support you in other ways as well.

PART IV: What to do if you run away

We really hope this has persuaded you not to run away, but should you choose to ignore this advice, there are resources to help you. Many cities have shelters specifically for homeless youth that will provide you with a meal and a bed for the night. Use Squat the Planet as a resource for finding information about the city you’re in as well as for general information on how to survive on the road.

It is important to note that you should also be ready to protect yourself in unexpected situations when encountering strangers. It may never happen to you, but if someone tries to hurt you while on the road, it is always good to carry something like pepper spray on you at all times. Whenever possible, avoid confrontations that can lead to trouble. Always be situationally aware and think ahead for possible outcomes so that you may assess your next move.

PART V: Resources

National Runaway Safeline: 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929)

If you’re considering running away from home or have run away, this number will put you in touch with people who can talk to you confidentially about your home situation, safety on the road, returning home, or any other concerns you may have about running away. If you are a runaway already, they can help you stay in touch with your parents/guardians without you having to contact them directly.

Covenant House Hotline: 1-800-999-9999

Covenant House runs this 24/7 crisis line available for youth, teens, and families. Operators provide counseling and local resources throughout the U.S. regarding drugs, abuse, homelessness, runaway children, and message relays.

Childhelp National Child: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

If you are suffering physical or emotional abuse at home, this hotline will allow you to speak to a qualified counselor who can provide support and encouragement and connect you to local resources.

Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386

If you are an LGBTQ youth in crisis, struggling with problems at home regarding your sexual orientation, the Trevor Lifeline provides a 24/7 hotline you can call if you need support and someone to confide in.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. Whether it’s substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, or even loneliness, this number will connect you to a trained counselor at a crisis center near you.

Runaways and Vagabonds Discord

Runaways and Vagabonds is a discord community and support server for houseless travelers that functions as a harm reduction resource for runaway or otherwise troubled youth. As a beacon for youth rights, happiness and freedom most of all, they will gladly support you and encourage you on whichever journey your life takes you through.


A subreddit that serves as a youth rights resource and hub for young people who are thinking of running away or are currently runaways.

Squat the Planet

Our site is a very supportive community. Our staff as well as fellow users are willing to answer questions and help guide you in the right direction. Should you feel the need to speak with someone privately, you may directly message any of the staff members for counseling/advice. The link above provides the list of StP staff members.


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Aug 15, 2018
Hermosillo, Sonora
Great post. I always dreamt of running away as a teen but never did, though there were a few nights I definitely came very, very close (packed a bag, stole a bunch of money from my mom's purse, climbed out a window, made it a few miles out of town, then I "pussied out" [as I thought of it then] and went back). Instead, as soon as I turned 18 I joined the Army. Now, I absolutely HATED all 5 years I spent in the military, but it gave me a lot of skills I never would've gotten elsewhere, and I don't just mean the survival aspect. Patience, ability to maintain a calm head during crisis, alternative shelter, perseverance...Things that I know are going to come in handy the longer and longer I head down my current road. Granted, for the time being I'm just a seasonal worker and I'll be mostly train hopping and hitch hiking my way to the next destination, but I am genuinely glad I didn't do this as a teenager.

To any youth who're actually reading the threads, please: Utilize the resources found here on this thread, and pay attention to the testimony of others. It's easy to think that you're somehow different and won't be exposed to some of these threats, but just because it's never happened before doesn't mean it won't happen at some point in the future. I highly encourage trying to stay close to home but still find a way out of the bad situation you're in, but if you elect to take this on you have to realize the consequences and be willing to accept that just because you envision a future of romance and travel doesn't mean that cold nights and serious threats won't come your way. I don't have much road experience just yet, but I've been to some shitty places and I've seen the worst sides of human nature, but abroad and at home. I don't want to use scare tactics, but I DO want you to take a moment before doing anything drastic and think it through clearly. No matter what you choose, I sincerely hope it all works out for the best!


May 5, 2018
As someone who ran away at the age of twelve ( I am 55 now and never returned home ) I would strongly say.." Do not do it. ...My life was very hard. I experienced things that noone should ever experience. I knew many many run aways and only two of us survived. ...It breaks my heart that kids are being abused to the point of having to survive the streets. Foster care system is a mess. and there is no safe place for these kids...WE NEED BETTER PROGRAMS....


I'm a d-bag and got banned.
Jan 14, 2016

i was reading this thread today and this song coincidentally played today at the dollar store when i went shopping. when i see those people who ran away or are gone missing, it is devastating. family is the foundation of society. when you don't have that, and i am betting most people don't, it is very difficult to survive in life from various angles - financial, emotional, security, opportunity.

to those who want to run away, you can approach a "soft reset" mode of "bailing out" on your life rather than a hard one which is merely up and bolting out and away. get your plans together as to where you will work or how you will earn income, where you will live, or if you will just hack it as it is. be aware of your medical needs or addictions. create a plan to make sure you are safe as best as possible. there are ways to run away and leave society or your family or situation behind but they must be done with sentience and not emotion. there are options to escape such as joining the military or job corps or a youth training program of some kind. you will meet people in your situation who will understand you and likely even a girl or a guy who cares about you personally.

overall i say that running away, whether a hard or soft reset, is not a good idea. just don't go near that idea. make good decisions in your life. the ones you make in your youth will affect you for the rest of life on this planet.

learn how to do something or engage your mind a job or task that takes you away from your negative thoughts. at some point, you will be able to leave your situation independently and without fear. start with working somewhere one day a week and build up to it. this mindset change cannot happen immediately.
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May 31, 2011
Riverdale Park, United States
Excellent advice. I ran away at 13. Hopped on my bike and just rode in the rain. I rode about 20 miles and had no clue where I was going. I found my grandparents house. Then my stepdad came to get me and he whipped the shit out of me.

Like thanks. You're the only reason I ran away. Then I get a massive beating in front of my grandparents. He has no guilt about it either.

I wish I'd have access to the above information sooner. This happened before the internet. peace.
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Sep 15, 2020
Salem, Oregon
Not a runaway, but soon to be a young teen without a home, and this was an incredibly useful read. The list of resources at the end was also greatly appreciated.

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