Youth Runaways on the Rise
Photo by Kamila Maciejewska
This week the NY Times online is running a 2-part series of articles and videos unfolding nearly a year of research on youth runaways and homelessness. The first article explores some of the complex issues surrounding youth runawayswhy they leave, why they stay away, and how they live. The second is entitled, For Runaways, Sex Buys Survival, detailing the nearly ubiquitous connection between runaways and sexual exploitation.
In addition to interviewing police, pimps, researchers, and nonprofit leaders, reporter Ian Urbina logged over 50 interviews with kids in 8 states. The video mini-documentaries are entitled When No Ones Looking, and anyone who works with teenagers should take some time to view them.
I remember writing a research paper on teen runaways more than 20 years ago in middle school. The books I found then talked about the problem of teen runaways and how prostitution is one of the few means available to kids for survival. Today, officials and researchers are reporting a sharp increase in teen runaways over the past two years, in part fueled by families devastated by economic downturn. And in one city cited in the reports, 80% of kids found prostituting on the streets were also repeat runaways. For those of us in ministry with teenagers, this is an old, but growing, reality we need to be aware of.