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Green Lights Bring Awareness to Runaway Kids

November is National Runaway Prevention month. Locally, Rare Breed Youth Services, a program that works with runaway and homeless kids, has joined a nationwide effort called the “Green Light Project” in hopes to promote awareness of runaway youth. KSMU’s Theresa Carter has more.

In the evening, looking down Jefferson Avenue, and many other streets in Springfield, you may have noticed green lights shining from peoples front porches. These lights are not part of holiday decorations, but rather an effort to bring attention to the plight of kids who have runaway. Todd Duncan is coordinator for the Rare Breed.

"We went out with teams of youth, staff ,and volunteers going door to door to hand out free green light bulbs. We also gave out flyers with information talking about the Green Light Project, along with information about runaways in Springfield. People were asked if they could light the green lightbulbs on their porches, along with their neighbors, and folks across the country, creating an opportunity for runaway awarness."

Each year there are as many as 600 runaways reported to the Springfield Police Department. That’s an average of 12 runaways a week. Although this number is significantly lower than it was 12-13 years ago, it continues to reflect a significant problem. Duncan says that most runaways have done so more than once, and are at a high risk of becoming part of the homeless youth population.

"We did a survey in 2007 and had asked 250 high-risk youth if they had run away before. 45% of those surveyed who said they had run away before, had done so an average of 3 times."

There are many myths concerning runaway children: people often think that these kids just don’t want to follow rules, or respect authority. However, this is not generally the case. Duncan says that only one in twenty runaway children actually fit those descriptions. Instead, Duncan says that kids run away to escape family conflict, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or even the family’s inability to financially support the child.

"We want people to have a better understanding of what kids are facing. Why their choice to run away isn't usually their first or preferred option. Many times they feel it is the only choice that they have. We know that when they do run away, they face significant dangers on the streets. They are not just at risk without adequate shelter, but also from those who would prey upon them."

This is the first year that Rare Breed Youth Services has participated in the Green Light program, and looks forward to doing it again next November. Duncan wanted to clarify that the green lights were not to be confused with the Safe Place program signs. Those indicate safe emergency sites for troubled youth flee to. The green lights are simply part of a larger effort to educate and bring awareness to the community.

You can find links to more information and resources on our website For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Carter.