Grace, a 26 year old woman, called the hotline recently. She was calling to thank us because she had used the program back when she was 17 turning 18.
In 1985, Greyhound Lines created the Home Free program to provide free Greyhound tickets to homeless youth and runaway youth so they can return home. Since 1995, National Runaway Safeline (NRS) has been a vital partner in maximizing the effectiveness of Home Free. More than 15,000 youth have been reunited with their families in the past 21 years thanks to the program, and NRS’ lead crisis service supervisor Amelia recently received a phone call from one of these success stories thanking NRS for helping her find her way home.
“This situation is unique because we are a confidential hotline,” said Amelia, “and in most cases callers can choose to remain anonymous because we’re not asking for their full name. One of the exceptions would be if someone uses our Home Free program. That’s what this call involved. Grace, a 26-year-old woman, called the hotline recently. She was calling to thank us because she had used the program back when she was 17 turning 18. So eight and a half, nine years ago.”
“The only reason we were able to look Grace up was because she had used a Home Free ticket. And the program requires that we get names. If it was anyone else who just called the crisis line at one point, we wouldn’t be able to look them up.” Because Amelia had Grace’s name on file, she was able to see which NRS crisis service volunteer had taken that initial call, and she was surprised by what she found.
Amelia discovered that the call was handled by Michele, an active volunteer and NRS board member. Amelia contacted Michele and told her about the happy ending to that 2008 call. NRS doesn’t usually know the outcomes of a crisis connection. This rare opportunity allowed Amelia to share Grace’s gratitude with the person that helped her in her darkest hour. Michele had been vital in helping Grace get safely home.
Even more runaways will be helped now that the Home Free program includes 21-year-olds, a recent change that was enacted just a few weeks ago, and expanding the age range by a single year will make a big difference for those confused, worried young adults that need a way home. The National Runaway Safeline can be reached by phone at 1-800-RUNAWAY (24/7), or online at 1800RUNAWAY.org, where crisis services are offered via e-mail (27/7), forum (24/7), or live chat (when available).
Amelia has been an NRS’ frontline team member for seven years.
Michele has been an NRS’ volunteer since 2007 and an NRS board member from 2008-2011, 2013 to present.
*The youth’s name and details have been changed to respect anonymity.