Program helps runaway youths - Catholic Courier
Hannah Pastrick is youth counselor for Catholic Charities of Schuyler’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Program. Hannah Pastrick is youth counselor for Catholic Charities of Schuyler’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Program.

Program helps runaway youths

Being a teenager "is hard in general," observed Hannah Pastrick: "Your body is changing, you’re trying to find your place. It might be just one bad day at home that sets a kid off."

That setting-off might even incite a youth to take to the streets, which is where Pastrick comes in. She serves as case manager of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program operated by Catholic Charities of Schuyler, supporting young people ages 10 to 20 who have run away from home or are considering it.

Operating in partnership with the Schuyler County Youth Bureau, the program offers a variety of services for youths throughout the county. Pastrick and other advocates are available (via phone call or text) at the 24-hour hotline number, 607-742-9629. Other times, Pastrick is connected to vulnerable youths by school liaisons and/or police contacts.

"We do have a very good relationships with the local authorities," she said.

Regarding triggers that cause a youth to bolt from home, Pastrick said the list is a long one. "A lot stems from relationships — fighting with parents because of a significant other, or running away from home to be with a significant other," she said. Other leading reasons include other family conflicts, including domestic violence; problems involving friends, such as peer pressure, relationships, substance abuse and gang activity; issues at school, including grades, teachers, suspension and expulsion; and abuse involving neglect or emotional, physical or sexual situations. Additional issues include mental and physical health, depression, suicide, sexuality and struggles with the judicial system.

Pastrick observed that when youths run away "usually it’s in the moment, they don’t plan it." This often means they haven’t considered such factors as safety, ability to survive and whether alternative options were first considered.

Upon meeting or speaking on the phone with a youth, Pastrick presents herself as a companion as opposed to an authority figure, explaining, "When you’re a troubled youth and dealing with five or six authoritative people, it’s scary." She only works with the person if that’s what he/she wants — "My program is completely voluntary," she said — and conveys the message that "I’m here for you, not here for your parents or for the authorities." This caring approach has proven successful; Pastrick said virtually every client she’s encountered has opted to work with her.

Once a cooperative agreement has been struck, Pastrick’s role is to "let them know all their options." Depending on individual circumstances, that might mean providing conflict resolution and mediation between runaways and their family members or social worker; offering emergency services such as food, clothing and shelter; or furnishing transportation for court appointments.

Pastrick noted that she doesn’t dictate to youths what options to pursue. Instead, she helps them figure out their own course of action by exploring facts and feelings about their situation. She said if youths don’t wish to go home right away, her program will contact alternative places for shelter such as the homes of friends or extended family.

Volunteer host homes offer an additional short-term shelter option for runaway youths, with families in these homes providing a safe environment and caring atmosphere. Pastrick noted that the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program has stepped up its awareness campaign in an effort to get more families to apply as host homes.

Pastrick said that her ultimate goal with the troubled youths "is to get them back home" because the majority of parent-child conflicts are resolvable. For the most part, she said, the parents do care about their children’s welfare and youths also wish to return home once they realize that "your life really isn’t that bad."

"We haven’t had a situation where the kids weren’t reconnected," she said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Runaway and Homeless Youth Program is located at Catholic Charities of Schuyler, 607 N. Franklin St., Watkins Glen. For details on the program, or for those interested in becoming a host home, contact Hannah Pastrick at or 607-535-2050, ext. 206. More information also may be found at


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