Reaching Runaway and Homeless Youth

One of the most challenging aspects of working with runaway and homeless youth is finding them. This was especially true for the RHY and DV/SA programs looking for ways to better respond to the relationship abuse that many youth experience.  As a result of these collaborative projects, specialized posters and palm cards focusing on relationship violence were developed and distributed as part of other outreach efforts.

To be effective, outreach efforts should focus on directly reaching youth who are in need of services, but also connecting with those who can refer youth to services.  Successful outreach efforts also involve multiple strategies and often include public service announcements (such as bus stop billboards), newspaper and magazine articles, the wide dissemination of brochures, posters and palm cards that can be provided to youth or easily picked up by them in public places, and, of course, word of mouth.

The Mid-Atlantic Network of Youth and Family Services (MANY) prepared a Technical Assistance Tip Sheet: Outreach Strategies for Youth Programs that includes the following guidance on the use of community resource mapping, National Safe Place, speakers bureaus, youth partners, and street outreach.

Community Resource Mapping: | Back to Top

One of the most effective strategies for targeting your outreach efforts is community mapping.  Best accomplished through a team of staff and youth familiar with the community, participants identify the assets in the community for getting out the message about your program. Specific people within organizations and institutions are identified and a relationship is developed. Local businesses willing to support your program with postings should be included as well.
Here are some places to start:

NOTE: More information on Community Youth Mapping can be found at http://communityyouthmapping.org

National Safe Place: | Back to Top

Many organizations have joined National Safe Place as one outreach strategy. Safe Place provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for all young people in crisis through a network of sites sustained by qualified agencies, trained volunteers and businesses.  Additional information can be found at their website: www.safeplaceservices.org

Speakers Bureau/Community Presentations: | Back to Top

When it comes to outreach, there is definitely power in numbers. The more people who know about your program and services, the more chance there is that the person who needs your program will find you. One approach is to have a "Speakers Bureau" at your agency to do community presentations on the services your agency provides and the unique needs of the clients you serve. Youth presenters are a key element of successful Speakers Bureaus. In addition, the National Runaway Switchboard has developed a "Runaway Prevention Curriculum", which can be downloaded from their website at no cost: http://www.1800runaway.org/educators/prevent_kit.html

Youth Partners: | Back to Top

Whatever your outreach strategy, be sure to include youth in the planning and implementation. Youth know the "hot spots" - they know the "language" - often, they know the "youth who need you" - they can be incredible resources to your outreach efforts. In fact, many experienced service providers would argue that an RHY outreach program without youth as a core role is not an effective one. Consider developing a position description for one or more youth volunteers to canvass your community, distribute literature, talk with youth, and identify community assets for follow-up by the outreach team.

Street Outreach: | Back to Top

One of the most effective strategies is Street Outreach - actually hitting the streets to find the youth who need help. A number of resources are available from the Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center (www.rhyttac.ou.edu), and the National Runaway Switchboard (www.1800runaway.org) to assist organizations reach youth through street outreach.

Examples of palm cards and posters: | Back to Top

RHY outreach palm card
National SafePlace

Teen Palm card: Domestic & Relationship Abuse Help and Support for LGBTQ Youth
DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence

See It and Stop It: Includes a range of downloadable materials
Family Violence Prevention Fund

Palm card: For females – You don’t have to lie for him.
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Palm card: For males – You don’t have to lie for her.
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence

“You have a right” posters
National Runaway Switchboard

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