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Homelessness & running away

Homelessness is having nowhere to live. Sometimes things can get so bad for people that they feel like running away from home.

Teenage boy carrying a backpack

Reasons why you might want to run away include:

Running away from home is not always planned. It can be a last-minute decision, and you might not be prepared - with no money, warm clothes or any idea about where you might seek help.

What is living on the streets like?

Living on the streets is very hard and you will be cold, hungry and in danger from other people. Being homeless when you are young is really dangerous and scary.

You might face problems like:

  • having nowhere safe to sleep or rest
  • not having food or clean water
  • being at risk from dangerous or abusive people
  • not being able to wash yourself or your clothes
  • getting ill or physically hurt
  • having no money
  • being attacked or having your belongings stolen from you
  • feeling lonely

  • I feel like running away is my only option, what can I do?

    You might feel like there’s nowhere else to turn, but running away to live on the streets is never the answer.

    If you feel like the only option is to run away, sometimes it can help to talk things through with someone else first. There may be options you hadn’t thought about. Some of the people you might want to talk to could include a parent or other family member, a teacher, a care worker or social worker.

    If you can't talk to someone, or feel that they won't listen, you can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111. Talking to us about what is wrong can help you find a way of solving the problem, before it gets so bad that you run away.

    Whatever your problem is, we can help you think about the best way to deal with it.

    We are here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it’s free to call, even from a mobile. If it’s easier, you can talk to us on 1-2-1 chat or over email. We won’t judge you or tell you what to do, but we will work with you to try to keep you safe.  

  • What if I want to run away from care?

     You may be feeling like you want to run away from care for reasons such as:

    - not getting on with the staff or foster carers you are living with
    - being bullied by other children in the same care home
    - being bullied about living in care
    - wanting to live with someone else, such as friends or family

    We talk to lots of young people who are in care. We understand that it can be a difficult time, and sometimes it can feel like decisions have been made for you that you do not always agree with. However, running away will not solve things, and can make things more difficult for you.

    Remember that you have a right to tell someone if you’re unhappy with your care placement. Some young people find it helps to talk to their social worker about the reasons for feeling unhappy, and in some situations they may be able to arrange a different care placement for you. However, if you feel unable to do this you can always call ChildLine on 0800 1111 to talk things through with a counsellor. Read more about living in care.

  • What can I do if I am homeless?

    Being homeless means not having somewhere to live, either because you have been kicked out of home or have run away and feel like you cannot return. Many homeless children:

    - are forced to sleep on the street, which is not safe and can only be temporary
    - get friends to lend them a bed or sofa for the night, which could be dangerous, against the law, or get the friend into trouble
    - stay with another family member temporarily.

    If you’re in any of these situations, you’ll be considered homeless by law. The authorities have to act to make sure that you have a safe home, so it’s really important to find out what your options are. As a first step it can often be really helpful to talk to a ChildLine counsellor. They will work with you to understand your situation, and to find the safest option for you.

    You may be able to stay with another family member on a long-term basis if that family member is able to look after you. This could happen if your parents or carers agree it is the best option.

    If you think your parents wouldn’t agree to you moving to another family member’s home, it might be a good idea to contact social services and let them know what’s been happening. They can help you think about your options.

    If you are worried about this, or don’t know what to do, you can always talk to a ChildLine counsellor for more support and advice.

  • At what age can I decide to leave home?

    If you are younger than 16, you can’t make the decision to leave home yourself, as the law says you need to be in the care of an adult. However, if you are finding living at home too difficult then your local authority may be able to:

    - help you sort things out with your parents
    - arrange for you to live with another family member or adult (like an aunt, grandparent or a friend’s parent)
    - find you emergency accommodation (for example, with a foster carer), if you are worried about being hurt at home

    This will often mean talking to a social worker about how things have been at home.
    Social workers may try to find a way for you to return home, but if living at home is unsafe, they will look at other options.

    Find out more about your rights.

  • What should I do if I am worried about a friend who has run away?

    If you know someone who has run away from home, it’s important to encourage them to get some help for themselves. If you are still in contact with them you could give them the ChildLine phone number (0800 1111) or web address.

    If you are worried about a friend or relative who has gone missing, then you should contact the police as soon as possible. 

Other sites that can help

Advice and support about homelessness and many other housing problems.

Advice for young people who are thinking about running away or are away from home.
Runaway helpline

Advice about finding somewhere to stay if you are homeless.
Help, I am homeless! (

Centrepoint help young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Family relationships

Fed up with how things are at home? Or want to get something off your chest? Get help from other young people in similar situations

Visit the home and family relationships message board

Call ChildLine

You can call ChildLine at any time on 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor. Calls are free and confidential.

Call ChildLine

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Homelessness & running away 


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