"National Runaway Safeline," Steve said, as he answered the call. On the other end of the line was “Brooke,” who introduced herself in a clear, anxious voice.
"I heard about your Home Free program and wanted to know if you could help me get home," the 18-year-old explained. Brooke then told Steve about her situation.
She first ran away from her mother’s home in Washington at the age of 14 and began working in the sex industry as a prostitute for her boyfriend. Sex trafficking is a common experience for runaway youth, who are likely to be solicited for prostitution or another form of commercial sexual exploitation within 48 hours of running away.
While out on the streets, Brooke and her boyfriend had a baby who ended up in the custody of the state’s child protective services.
“I just want to go back home and get out of this life style so I can get my son back,” Brooke said.
After speaking with Brooke and establishing that she was safe, Steve was able to arrange a conference call with Brooke’s mother, who confirmed her story.
“Brooke was always a good student and stayed involved in school activities,” her mother related. “She just started hanging with the wrong crowd; that’s how she met her boyfriend and starting prostituting.”
With Steve’s help, Brooke and her mother were able to reconnect and establish some goals for their relationship. Steve also supplied them with written and online resources from the Switchboard’s database.
Brooke’s mother told her that she was more than welcome to come back home. Steve then proceeded with the Home Free process, contacting Greyhound to secure Brooke a bus ride home, where she would be safe and off the streets.
For more information on the National Runaway Safeline, a FYSB grantee, visit www.1800runaway.org.