Running away from home

You may feel that running away from home is the only solution to your problems. Perhaps you're running away because you feel unsafe at home. Perhaps you are running way because of problems outside the home, such as bullying. This page looks at what you can do and how you can get help if you feel you have to leave home in a hurry.

Problems with my family

  • Before packing your bags and running away, try talking to someone else about the problem, for example a teacher, relative or youth group leader.

  • Call Childline for free, confidential advice.

  • A mediation service may be able to help you sort out your problems with your family. Mediators do not decide 'who is right', instead they help you resolve arguments for yourselves.

  • Read our tips on improving your relationship with your parents.

I'm in danger at home

If someone in your home is being violent or abusive towards you, you must get help immediately. If you are in this situation you can:

If you feel you have to run away, try to arrange somewhere to stay before you leave, for example with a friend or relative, in a refuge, hostel or bed and breakfast hotel. Make sure you take a few necessities with you such as:

  • identification documents such as your passport, driving licence and national insurance card - this is really important

  • a change of clothes and a warm coat

  • money or cash cards

  • your mobile phone and/or address book

  • toiletries

  • any medication you need, such as an inhaler, anti-epileptic drugs, insulin or antidepressants

  • other important personal belongings, such as glasses.

If you are forced to leave your home because of violence or abuse, you can go to your local council's housing department and tell them that you are homeless they should offer you somewhere to stay while they look into your situation (see 'where can I go' below).

Can my parents throw me out?

Once you are 16 years old, if your parents ask you to leave, you will probably have to go. If you're under 16, your parents have a legal responsibility to look after you and make sure you have somewhere safe to stay. However, if you have a bad falling out, they may make you leave anyway.

If you find yourself in this situation, you should talk to an adviser immediately.

  • Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice 0808 800 4444 for advice on where to stay.

  • Call Childline on 0800 1111 for help.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

An adviser can look at your situation and help you decide what's best for you. For example:

  • If you want to stay at home, an adviser can put you in touch with a mediator who can help you talk things through with your family.

  • If you want to move out, an adviser can go through your housing options with you or help you make a homeless application to the council (see below).

Where can I go?

If you find yourself with nowhere to stay, there are several things you can do in an emergency.

Find out more about what you can do in an emergency.

Can the council help me?

If you have to leave your home because your parents have thrown you out or you ran away because you are scared of violence or abuse, you can get help from your local council. You don't have to sleeping on the street to get help. If you are staying with a friend or in a hostel, you are still homeless.

If you are in this situation, you can make a homeless application to the council's housing department or homelessness unit. Even if the council offices are closed, there should be an emergency number you can call to get help.

Are you homeless or at risk of becoming homeless? Find out how to apply to your nearest council for immediate help.

How can the council help?

The council will give you somewhere to stay, for example in a flat or hostel, while it looks into your situation. The council will then decide what kind of help it can offer you. This might be:

  • help to find a new place to live

  • help to find a new place to live and somewhere to stay until you can find a new home

  • an offer of a permanent home. This may be a house or flat, or in supported accommodation such as a foyer.

What if the council won't help me?

If the council won't help you, call Shelter's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444 

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Find out more about getting help from the council and what you can do if the council won't help you.

Can social work help me?

If you are under the age of 18, have been in care or are disabled, the council's social work department may be able to help you.

What if I end up sleeping on the street?

Sleeping rough is particularly dangerous for young people. If you do find yourself in this position, call your council, or get in touch with Shelter on 0808 800 4444.

Where can I get more help and advice?

Whatever your problem is, there are many organisations that can help you, and it's never too late to try and sort out your situation. Getting help while you're still at home is usually a better option than running away.

The page on help for young people links to lots of organisations you can contact if you're feeling unhappy or unsafe at home or if you're having problems outside of the home, such as bullying, involvement with drugs and alcohol or problems with to do with sex.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 19 October 2020

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England