Study shows runaway and homeless youth require a proactive approach

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FLINT (WJRT) When a teenager runs away from home they often end up bouncing from house to house, couch surfing or living on the street.
They are more likely to get involved with drugs, and get in trouble with the law. A local program is working to break the cycle of homelessness.

"I kind of did whatever I wanted and it got me into a lot of trouble," Brianna Hammond said.
Hammond was a rebellious teenager. She hung out with the crowd and would often run away from home and school.

"She made it very clear she didn't want to be here. I laid on my floor and I don't think I ever cried so hard in my life,” Jamie Lawrence said.

Even though Brianna would return home her parents feared the next time she'd leave it would be for good.

The family was proactive. They found REACH in Flint, which offers kids shelter up for 21 days.

During that time, Brianna stayed in the program as she went through counseling with her family. REACH's goal is getting families back together.

"There's homelessness everywhere. There are homeless families and homeless young people. We call them unaccompanied minors,” REACH/Traverse Place Executive Director James Perlaki said.

REACH strives to keep those runaways from calling the streets home on a permanently. A 2015 Ohio State University study shows multiple children who runaway multiple times are at an increase of being homeless.

A new Michigan League of Public Policy report shows the need for programs like REACH.
Perlaki with REACH says there may be a point when homelessness is no longer a problem, but we'll have work harder at prevention.

"We got to prevent homelessness in the first place," Perlaki said.

Mother and daughter say REACH turned their relationship around.

"Me and my mom will go for car rides and talk and jam out to music. We will go out and get ice cream or something like we do a lot together,” Hammond said.

The study highlights that 44% of those who reported being homeless stayed in jail or a juvenile detention center at some point.