This month we highlight a Belgian charity formed to help runaways and their families reunite.
At SOS Jeunes – Quartier Libre, we regularly encounter situations of family and/or institutional breakdown. These can take different forms, of which the two most common are running away and exclusion. It is a fuzzy concept which is very difficult to define.
A bit of history
Running away from home is far from being a new phenomenon: teenagers have always left home without but the reasons and answers as to why have changed dramatically over the centuries. In the middle ages, two young lovers would often run away to be able to live their love far from family constraints. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, it became an act of ‘vagrancy’ – for the state it was an offence to be repressed because of the socio-economic context in which street children were considered a danger. The vagabond minors were imprisoned until vagrancy was decriminalized in 1935.
The views about runaways can vary greatly depending on the socioeconomic and cultural context of the family and the difficulties that running away can cause for the young person and his or her entourage. This is why it is important to have a clear definition of the fugue.
It is very difficult to define running away because there is no single definition – there are as many definitions as there are experts. This diversity is explained by the different domains chosen to approach the phenomenon: sociology, law, psychology, education, etc. Each field has its vision and therefore its definition of runaways.
As part of the work at SOS Jeunes – Quartier Libre, they have chosen a definition based on a combination of the following:
– Be a minor
– Go against the parental will or that of a legal guardian
– Act, by spending at least one night away from home
Help can be found in the main francophone regions of Belgium: Brussels, Brabant Wallon, Hainaut, Namur, Liège and Luxembourg.
To find out how you can help or get advice check out the website.