When I ran away from home, I knew nothing about how to make my way, homeless or sheltered. I had a few skills, but very few that could easily be converted to money. I didn't know what challenges I would face, and I had no idea how much danger I was in.
I was bullied in grade school, and I quit high school when I was sixteen, a year before I ran. The alienation I'd learned from this fueled my decision to leave home, but did not teach me how to do it. I ran naked, no money, no work, no future, no plans, no rights. I survived by luck. Had my environment been even a little bit more hostile, I should have died.
My early bouts with homelessness cannot be termed anything but failures. I escaped my homelessness by relying upon friends to take me in. It took years before I found my own way, and in the process I became every kind of victim.
Homelessness, while it falls frequently upon the weak, is not for the weak or the unprepared. Teen shelters are virtually non-existant, and if they do exist, you wouldn't want to be in them. They'd resemble youth authority jails or group homes, and either model is miserable and dangerous. Adult shelters will not accept a teenager. They come with too much legal murkiness, but in any case adult shelters are horrible even when kindly intended. I spent a week or so in a place called 1706 House in Hermosa Beach, California. Their chief mission was to intervene with the family and get the teen runaway to return home, and they had a two week policy. You could stay there for two weeks, but then you were out, for good. Nothing comes up for them on a Google search now, so I can only guess that the outfit folded. No loss. They served the system, and were indifferent to the individual.
I look back on this time with a detached horror. I can hardly relate to that earlier self. When kids write to me asking me to help them run away, I never know how to respond. The one thing I know is that they should never run without a plan. You have to know where you are going, and how you expect to earn money. Without that plan, your survival will be a roll of dice.
I learned to survive homeless simply by increasing my knowledge in a general way. I had far greater analytical skills when I was twenty eight than I had when I was seventeen. I had the experience of teen homelessness to inform my meditations. Perhaps most importantly I had a driver's license, a car, and the right to legally work. Those are powerful tools.