Life on the streets is a dead end 

Long Story Short

Having grown up in a farming community where families were tight-knit, I never thought about running away from home, although there was the time when a neighbor girl and I got a stern talking-to when we proposed heading for nearby Highway 50 and trying our luck at hitchhiking.

Nowadays, however, thousands of kids find home life so intolerable that they're willing to ditch it and try their luck on the streets. Shawna Kemppainen, who heads up Urban Peak, a program for homeless kids, can tell some real horror stories that unfold right here in our community. Kids who aren't even old enough to drive can find themselves in the clutches of predators while couch-surfing, living in vacant buildings, wandering the streets.

Many teens are repeat runaways, not because they didn't "learn their lesson" the first or second time, but because they don't know what else to do to escape, or they're pushed out by parents, she says.

As Kemppainen notes, "The strongest predictors of running away are substance abuse, depression, abuse at home, family rejection and overall lack of parental support. About 1 in 5 runaway youth have physical or sexual abuse in their history."

Local law enforcement seems to take runaway reports seriously, but there's only so much officers can do, especially given the sheer number of these cases. Read more about the situation starting here.

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