Being forced to leave your home is one of the scariest things that can happen to someone.
Another adult family member may be willing to take you in for a little while until your family cools off. They may also be able to help you negotiate with your family so that you can return home. This is probably your safest option. So call and ask for help!
A friend / friend's family may be willing to let you couch surf. Give it a few days and talk to your family once things have cooled off. They may be willing to negotiate with you about what you need to do to return home.
Let any adult you know and trust, school counselor, youth worker, or neighbor, know your situation. They may be able to help you resolve things with your family so you can return home. Or they may be able to help you find a safe place until a final solution can be worked out.
See if there is a youth shelter in your area. Call the local United Way, check in with a local church or talk to other youth to help find a shelter. If you do, go and talk to them and see how they can help.
If you are under 18, your parents have a legal obligation to support you. So, you can go to the police and ask for their help. Understand that if you do this, you may be put into the foster care system in your area. This may not be what you want, but it is safer than the street.
If none of the above works, you may find yourself on the street. Understand that this is not a desirable or safe solution, so please try all of the options listed above more than once before taking to the streets or running away. Although the idea of "total freedom" may be seductive, you must understand that street life has its own rules and that to violate them may lead to your injury or death. See the "Homeless" tab below for information on how to survive the street.
If you are leaving home because you can't stand "the rules," understand that the street has its own rules and will be very dangerous. Your family’s rules are most likely much safer. Friends, relatives, a shelter, child protective services or foster home will all be much safer alternatives than the streets.
If, at this time, the street looks safer than home, we need to go over a couple of things. Something is not right! First and foremost no one, not even your family, has the right to emotionally, physically or sexually harm you. If this is happening, please find a trusted adult and tell them what is going on. A trusted adult could be another family member; a teacher or school counselor, a clergy person, a coach, a youth worker or any adult you know has no agenda but your safety. If you have no such adults in your life you can call local child protection agencies in your area or go to the local police. Remember, no one can help you if you do not ask. Please do this before you walk out the door. Give these people or agencies time to get you the help you need to be safe.
OK, so the worst has happened and you are on the street. There are some things you can do to help insure your survival.
THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER:
Your day-to-day life has some new challenges. Here are a few: no food, finding safe drinking water, staying clean, getting shelter, staying warm in winter, staying cool in summer, getting clothing, getting medical care, continuing your education, protecting yourself from physical harm, protecting yourself from emotional harm, avoiding drugs, avoiding HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. And you have to do all this with very few resources.
Two really important things to remember:
If you are on the street, people are going to take advantage of and/or hurt you. Trying to get even might get you killed. Simply come to terms with it, it is just part of street life.
You might find yourself doing things you never thought you would do and make you feel bad about yourself (and thus want to drink, do drugs or do more harmful things). Understand that begging doesn't mean you're a beggar. Stealing doesn't mean you're a thief. Turning tricks doesn't mean you're a prostitute. BUT, do these things long enough and you will become a beggar, a thief, and/or a prostitute.
OK, where to start.
Call the local United Way and ask for resources that can help you. Find the nearest homeless resource center and visit. These places often have showers, washing machines, places to store your stuff, food and resource listings for your area.
Don't look homeless. Looking homeless will make it that much harder for you to get what you need. Keep reading to find out how to look legit.
Don't carry everything you own around with you. Limit what you're carrying to what normal people your age carry such as a backpack, a messenger bag, a purse. Homeless resource centers often have places to store your stuff. Use them.
It is easy for your feet to develop all kinds of problems when you are on the street. Foot problems limit your ability to move and to run. Also, smelly feet mean smelly shoes mean nothing good is going to happen for you. Socks are cheap, get some and wear clean ones every day.
Personal hygiene is critical to your health and your ability to get off the street. You must stay clean! Gas station and other public restrooms are often not good or safe places to get cleaned up. Better options include homeless resource centers; public showers at beaches and pools, gyms at community colleges (just look like you belong there) and coin operated car washes (you might want to use this one at night).
Keep your clothes clean. Again, homeless resource centers can help. Don't forget coin-operated laundries and coin operated car washes.
Get a community voice mail so you can look for a job.
Find someplace safe to stay. Don't choose an abandoned building where someone else is already camping, it's their home, and you'd be trespassing.
Food: lots of places feed the homeless. Ask the United Way where the ones closest to you are.
Safe drinking water: parks often have public drinking fountains. You can sneak water from private hose outlets. In many areas, merchants are required to give clean water to anyone who asks – one hitch, you must have your own container. Be very careful about your water, dirty water can make you sick.
Staying warm in winter: wear layers of clothes; this really helps. Also, a blanket or sleeping bag is a must if you can't find a place to sleep indoors. Libraries are good places to hang out (and research how you are going to get off the street) during the day (an example of where not looking homeless gets you what you want). During the winter, you can often ride on public transportation all day/night. 24-hour movie theatres are often the cheapest shelter in town.
Staying cool in summer: many places have cooling stations, see if your town has one. You'll be treated better if you don't look homeless. Again, public transportation and 24-hour movie theatres may be an option. Be sure you drink plenty of water when it is hot.
Getting clothing: check with your local United Way to see who has "closets." Also, thrift stores can be a resource. Remember, keeping your clothing tidy is a resource!
Getting medical care: check with your local United Way to see what options you have. Check with the local homeless resource center to see what they know. If you are really sick – go to the emergency room.
Protecting yourself from physical harm, emotional harm, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS: here is where the people you choose to hang with matter. You have to find a safe crowd and a safe turf. Here are people to avoid: anyone who has a reputation of being a user, drama queens, people whose luck is always bad, people who want you to "save" them, people who want to "save" you and anyone who doesn't "feel" right.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS ABOUT PEOPLE! If you internal alarms are sounding, there is a reason.
Please do whatever is necessary to make a plan and work your plan to get off the street. The longer you stay, the harder it is to get away and the harder and more run down you will become.