Repeatedly running away and entrenchment in street life
In some cases, the young person runs away again despite all our efforts. There is increased clinical discussion and concerted action between partners. However, in spite of the innovative solutions we put in place and the substantial changes we make in the way we deal with these incidents, the young person continues to run away. While these persistent runaways are only a minority, they are of enormous concern to us and require a great deal of energy and time. This type of situation can trigger all sorts of reactions in us, and we may often feel helpless every day.
By running away, the young person comes to see this act as the main way to fulfill their needs or aspirations. The more frequently they run away, the better organized they become and the more their peer network develops. The combination of these factors encourages entrenchment in street life, meaning that the youth develops a sense of belonging to this lifestyle and feels comfortable there. Over time, our intervention practices become less and less effective, as the meaning of running away tends to get more blurred for the young person. Indeed, their running away ends up meaning different things, depending on the people the message is intended for. Returning to the home environment is what causes a disruption for the young person.
Consequently, it is crucial to recognize the positive role of running away in the lives of these young people in terms of their autonomy, responsibility and resourcefulness, in addition to enabling them to explore various social skills such as mutual aid. These young people often require us to think outside the box as we work with them to find innovative solutions that help them find a stimulating path in life that truly meets their needs. In such cases, the harm reduction approach offers genuine benefits.
Even if the measures put in place for the young person at this stage do not allow us to fulfill our respective mandates, it is reassuring to remember that they can greatly help the young person in the longer term. Chronic runaways often end up homeless or on the street once they reach the age of majority. Supporting them in spite of this, while they are away and when they make surprising choices, gives us the opportunity to prepare them for what comes next, as their lives are just beginning.