Santa Barbara City Police receive nearly 150 calls for runaway and missing youth each year and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department receives more than 300 calls each year. The problem is growing. According to the National Runaway Safeline, between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention estimates that in 2001 over 75 percent of runaway youth were gone for less than one week, yet in 2012, nearly half of the crisis callers to National Runaway Switchboard had been away from home over a week when they called.
Runaways come from every life circumstance.
The first step in preventing youth from making the decision to run is gaining an understanding of the facts about runaway youth in order to dispel the myths about them. Prevention means assisting youth in discovering the delicate balance of life-saving skills such as:
• Awareness — what it means to run away and why running away will not solve their problems
• Resources — to build a safety net of trusted people and organizations to turn to for help
• Communication — how to speak and listen effectively
• Stress Management — how to reduce or manage stressors and solve problems
Most youth stay close to home and need safety for only a short period of time. Getting help lessens the chance of turning to dangerous situations just to survive.
Youth and Family Services YMCA offers assistance to youth through Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter, providing temporary shelter for foster children, runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth, and Support and Outreach Services reaches out to youth living on the streets in Santa Barbara.
A candlelight vigil has been scheduled in Santa Barbara on Thursday, November 13, 5:30-6:30 p.m., De la Guerra Plaza. Join us to raise awareness and shine light on the local and national tragedy of runaway youth.
At the vigil, Youth and Family Services staff working with runaway and homeless youth in Santa Barbara will share stories of abandonment and abuse, as well as real-life examples of healing and finding a way home.
For more information, please contact Meghan Rourke, shelter director of Noah’s Anchorage, at Meghan.Rourke@ciymca.org. Tina Hernandez is the marketing and communications director at Channel Islands YMCA.