Youth : OPINION : Advice From Runaways: 'Living on the Streets Is Scary'

Compiled for The Times by Danielle Masterson

The following are statements by former residents of Angel's Flight, a shelter for runaway and homeless youth in Los Angeles. The teens have only given their first names because of their situations.

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MARLON, 15

The advice I would give another kid is to try and figure out what he's doing. Sometimes kids are hard-headed and are influenced very easily. Take me, for example. I was just having problems with my mom because of the way I dress. She would throw away my baggy pants.

I took it to the extreme and ran away. And now it's getting complicated. And you know that saying, "You don't know what you had until you don't have it anymore." Well now I really miss my Mom. The first three days you're gone, you say, "Yeah, I'm glad I left." But then you don't have a place to go and you wish you could go back home. It's hard for you.

The most difficult thing (about being away from home) has been not to be able to see my little brother. I want to go back home, but my counselor said I might have to be placed for about six months because I was on probation when the police picked me up.

ANGIE, 17

I've been running away since I was 10. I'm just running away from my problems. Me and my mom do not get along. I haven't seen her in four months. I miss her sometimes, but I don't want to live with her.

My advice to anyone considering running away is not to do it. Living on the streets, which is what I did, is probably one of the scariest things you'd ever go through. You never know when someone is going to come and kill you or rape you. If you do drugs, you might get bad drugs.

A lot of times I thought my life was in danger because I was living on the streets with my friends. And every night you'd try to figure out, where am I going to sleep tonight? I never knew. A lot of times you would go home with strange men. Some of them are pimps. Some of them are "sugar daddies." I never prostituted, though.

JORGE, 13

My first advice would be to stay away from friends or associates who will influence bad habits or actions that will hurt you and others.

The most difficult obstacle for me was dealing with gang members. They would harass me at school everyday. They would try to force me to join them and to smoke marijuana with them. They would even harass me in front of my mom. That would upset her very much.

If it weren't for this place (Angel's Flight), I would be with them right now. I cannot go back to my neighborhood because they will kick me off the street. I want to be able to move to another shelter like this in a different location because I can't go back to my neighborhood and my family can't afford to move now. I'd also like to be able to help my mom.

(Jorge was assisted by Spanish interpreter Alfredo Botello, a counselor at the shelter.)

AURA, 14

I would tell other kids not to run, especially girls, because you run the risk of joining a gang or of getting raped. I ended up here at the shelter because some gang members were going to rape me. I called the police and they brought me here.

I have been gone for about three weeks. I ran away because my family didn't understand me. They blame me for everything. Even though it was hard for me at home, it's best not to run away. Get help from your teachers or someone, but don't run away. It's harder for you when you do.

I'll probably get placed in a foster home when I leave here. My friends won't be able to see me again or talk to me. I want to be able to see them again, but this is best.

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