CLEVELAND — For nearly 20 years, Greyhound Lines has partnered with the National Runaway Safeline – an organization that seeks to keep runaway and homeless youth safe – to reunite young people with their families and guardians.
The program is called Home Free, and it provides bus tickets to runaway children.
Through Home Free, the partnership has helped more than 1,000 kids return home in the last year.
Since 1995, the program has helped more than 40,000 runaways return home across the country.
To get a free ticket home, a person between the ages of 12 and 21 must call the NRS helpline (1-800-RUNAWAY). They also must be named on a runaway report and be willing to return to their family. The family or guardian also needs to agree to receive them at home.
If the individual hoping to return home is under the age of 15, Home Free also provides a free ticket for the child’s parent or guardian.
A person can only get a ticket home through the program twice.
Before a young person begins their journey home, National Runaway Safeline says they work with them and their guardians to create a plan for their return and locates resources in the community that will be able to provide support once they are settled.
After the family is reunited, group says it follows up to make sure the family member arrived home safely and provides additional resources.
However, during a pandemic, it’s harder to get help. Kids aren’t in school; there’s no coffee shops or libraries open to get out of the cold and places like the YMCA or community centers aren’t available for basic needs like showers.
"I don’t know many people, let alone young people who want to leave home and be homeless. Which is really what's happening,” said Susan Frankel, CEO of the National Runaway Safeline. “They are leaving a difficult, sometimes dangerous, sometimes life threatening, sometimes very difficult situation and circumstances. And this is a last resort, is to leave home."
Locally here in Northeast Ohio, Home Free helped 80-100 runaways return home in 2020.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.