Established in 1995 in partnership with Greyhound Lines, Inc., this program helps runaway, homeless and exploited youth return home safely or get to a stable place where they can receive appropriate services.
Runaway and homeless youth service providers; community and faith-based organizations; law enforcement; child welfare, health, and education professionals; and other concerned adults who come into contact with potentially eligible youth are encouraged to review the Home Free information below.
The Home Free program reunites youth with their family or legal guardian or helps them get to an alternative living arrangement (ALA), such as a community-based transitional living program, through a free bus ticket.
In addition, Home Free works in collaboration with youth, parents and guardians, law enforcement, anti-trafficking organizations, social service and health care providers and others to ensure youth who are victims of labor and sex trafficking benefit from reuniting with caring adults or getting to an alternative living program.
NRS is the sole organization that can issue a ticket through the Home Free program.
Eligibility and Restrictions*
Youth must be between the ages of 12 and 21 and self-identify as homeless, runaway or a victim of human trafficking. Youth must agree to complete the necessary steps to obtain a ticket through the Home Free program. On occasion, parents, guardians or another adult family member designated by the parent or guardian may also receive a round-trip ticket to travel to the youth’s location, so they can accompany the youth home.
- Youth under age 18 can only return to a parent or legal guardian, which may include a non-custodial parent, sibling age 21 or older, or an extended family member, such as aunt or uncle.
- For youth ages 18 to 21, options include returning home or traveling to an approved ALA, such as confirmed residential services housing, including a transitional or independent living program willing to accept them. Youth who were formerly in the child welfare system have the option to travel to a prior adult caregiver.
- Tickets are non-transferrable.
- Participants must agree to participate in a follow-up phone call to verify the youth’s arrival and to review the utilization of local resources agreed upon during the Home Free ticketing process.
- Youth must initiate the process by calling NRS’ hotline at 1-800-786-2929 and speaking with NRS Crisis Services team about their situation. Youth will also be screened for signs of human trafficking.
- At the request of a youth, NRS can help identify and access a local safe place, such as a police station, runaway and homeless youth service provider, shelter, other local youth service provider, or a hospital emergency room. Once they are in a safe place, the Home Free application process can begin.
- To ensure minor participants safety while using the Home Free Program, guardian escort tickets are available for youth 12 to 17 who use the program.
- Child tickets can be offered for parenting youth traveling with their children who are over the age of 2 or any child traveling with a car seat.
- With the youth’s permission, NRS staff can communicate with any adults and/or professionals directly involved. When youth will be traveling to an ALA, conference calls with the youth and adults involved in the identified ALA are required to confirm that everyone agrees with the proposed living arrangement, and to confirm that safe and stable housing and any critical support services, such as individual and/or family counseling services, are available.
- In order to ensure the safety of the youth, NRS may request/require documentation, such as I.D.s or birth certificates, to verify the identities of all parties involved in the Home Free process, including from parents/guardians, service providers, siblings or other parties whom the youth may be living with.*
- For youth under 18, NRS may ask if a runaway report was filed. If filed, NRS may request to verify it as an option in lieu of other forms of I.D.
- To ensure participants have the necessary support to continue to address the individual and family issues that led to the youth leaving home or becoming a trafficking victim, NRS requires participants to continue to use supportive services they are currently accessing or resources identified by NRS for follow-up support in their new location.