Ableism, Disability, and Systemic Injustice in the Lives of Runaway Youth and Youth Considering Running Away

It is well documented that marginalized youth, including Black and Brown youth and LGBTQ+ youth, experience much higher incidence of homelessness and running away. National studies frequently discuss the roles of systemic racism and heterosexism in influencing family resources and dynamics. However, in these discussions about systems of oppression and their relationship to runaway incidence and youth homelessness, there is rarely, if ever, mention of the words “disability” and “ableism.” This research, then, seeks to address that gap. Using 150 posts from the National Runaway Safeline’s public crisis forums, I analyze young people’s experiences with disability and ableism as they consider running away or do run away from home. My findings indicate the pervasive nature of ableism and disability in the lives of runaway youth and youth considering running away from home despite the lack of attention to ableism and disability in national data.

Rachel Lichtman, Undergraduate Student, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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