Seventeen-year-old Penelope had been couch surfing for months to escape an unsafe living situation with her parents. When her uncle offered her a place to stay more permanently, she was understandably scared and wary of adults. She was already connected to an Outreach Counselor at YouthCare’s James W. Ray Orion Center; trusting that relationship, she worked with Safe Place and her Counselor to navigate her concerns, and facilitate her move to his home. A month after moving in, she reports that she has re-enrolled in school and feels safe living with her uncle.
Greg, a thirteen-year-old boy in South King County, got into an argument with his mother, and was so upset he set out on foot to find his father in Seattle. After walking for hours, he got on a Metro bus and asked for help. The driver immediately contacted Safe Place, who sent a youth counselor to meet the young man and transport him to Auburn Youth Resources. The next day, he was safely reunited with his mother.
It’s National Safe Place Week, and the King County Safe Place program is celebrating Penelope, Greg, and the 90 young people and community members they have provided shelter, family reunification, or community resources options since launching a year and a half ago. Just this year, King County Safe Place has responded to 28 calls for help, showing that as awareness of the program grows, more and more young people in a variety of circumstances are reaching out for help.
“As young people become aware of this program,” notes YouthCare’s Executive Director Melinda Giovengo, “we are seeing an assortment of situations that lead youth to Safe Place. It’s a program that’s not just limited to first-time runaways, but is reaching young people who have been out on the streets for some time, or who have run from unsafe homes several times and do not know where to turn. When we can provide them a safe place to stabilize, we see that they are making positive, healthy choices and working to reconnect, and ultimately reunify, with their families.”
King County Safe Place is a collaboration between YouthCare, Friends of Youth, and Auburn Youth Resources in partnership with local business and organizations including King County Metro Transit and the YMCA of Greater Seattle. A teen in crisis can ask for help at any Safe Place site (identified by a yellow-and-black diamond logo), or call 1-800-422-TEEN to be connected to a Safe Place counselor.
The three agencies are celebrating National Safe Place week by thanking our site partners, including tabling at several Metro Transit locations, and launching a new social media presence. Visit King County Safe Place on Facebook, and learn more about this critical program to help kids in crisis.