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Runaways is Steve Moore's story. He's sixteen and lives with his younger sister, mother Cheryl and her boyfriend John, in a modest house in Bakersfield, California. An abusive and often intoxicated man, John rules the household, and though his attacks on Steve result in emergency hospital visits, Cheryl's loyalty is to her boyfriend. To protect her relationship with John, she 'ditches' her son, having him arrested and locked in a correctional 'mental' facility, before coercing her older brother Burt, who lives in Hollywood, to take him. Steve quickly discovers that Burt cannot even provide temporary lodging, but an administrator at his new high school directs him to a shelter for runaway kids where he soon learns to navigate his way. At the shelter which offers only a two to three month respite from the streets, counselor Tony Perez tries to provide guidance to Steve and his roommates Mike and Andy. While encouraging them to try to reconcile with their parents, he insists that they take charge of their own lives and believe that a better life is possible. Angry and confused teen runaways come and go at the shelter, as Steve learns he is not alone in his predicament and that the streets offer a harsh reality. Postponing his desire to play basketball on the school team, Steve finds an after-school job to support himself and pursues a relationship with the affluent but unhappy Sally. Andy spirals down into crack addiction and becomes a homeless prostitute and Mike gains stability in his life once he moves in with his loving and supportive aunt. Mike's aunt soon opens her home to Steve as well, and the two celebrate their good fortune at having the opportunity to get their lives on track.

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