Addressing youth runaway issue in St. Joseph County
November is National Runaway Prevention month and the Youth Service Bureau of St. Joseph County want to make people aware of the issue within the community.
Between 1.6 to 2.8 million teens runaway each year, according to the Youth Service Bureau.
The YSB says it is a common misconception that they run away because they want to be rebellious; however, most of the time they are doing it to escape physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or to get away from other harmful behaviors.
It is estimated by the YSB that each year there are about 1,000 runaway and homeless teens in St. Joseph County alone. There are 160 safe place sites within the county where runaways can go if they need help.
Safe sites include South Bend Police and fire departments, Mishawaka Police and Fire Departments, township fire departments, the Walkerton Police Department, Burger King restaurants, St. Joseph County and Mishawaka libraries, and Transpo buses.
Safe sites are marked with a yellow sign that says "Safe Place."
There is immediate help available for any youth going through a crisis. They can text the word "SAFE" and current location to 69866. Text4Help is a nationwide 24 hour text for support service that will send a reply back with a message to let them know the closest safe place and give contact information.
There is also a National Runaway Safeline. That number is 1-800-RUNAWAY.