Young people in crisis now need only find the nearest bus driver, thanks to a new partnership between King County, YouthCare, Auburn Youth Resources, Friends of Youth, and Safe Place, a national non-profit organization that builds community safety nets for young people in crisis.
How does it work?
A young person age 12-17 in need of help approaches any Metro bus driver, who will then make a call to trigger contact with a youth service provider.
What happens next depends on the needs of the youth. Sometimes it’s counseling and providing help to reunite the child with family or friends. In the absence of alternatives, youth can be taken to a safe shelter.
In addition to help from Metro drivers, young people in King County have another option if they need help quickly. “Text 4 HELP” is a National Safe Place service that uses SMS text technology to offer information about the closest location to access immediate help and safety. By texting the word “SAFE” and their current location to 69866, youth can get help within seconds. In our area, they will be referred to shelters that will provide the assistance they need.
Why do we need Safe Place?
On any given night, United Way estimates there are 700-1,000 young people with no safe place to sleep in Seattle alone. Some are abandoned, some are abused, and few know where to get help. It’s estimated that at least 300-500 children in King County under the age of 18 are sexually exploited each year. That’s a troubling statistic, given estimates that one in three runaways will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours. Many young people already ride Metro buses; now they know they can ask a bus driver for help, and the bus driver knows where to direct them to be sure they get the help they need.
With the addition of Metro and the local service agencies—YouthCare, Friends of Youth, and Auburn Youth Resources—King County becomes the largest Safe Place partner in the state of Washington and one of 1,529 communities nationwide with a Safe Place program. The purpose of the program is to have the necessary community resources in place to get help to young people quickly, decreasing the potential for harm.
Are you looking for more Safe Places in King County?
Yes! The new Safe Place partnership in King County welcomes other organizations and businesses interested in providing additional safe places where youth can get connected with services. Facilities frequented by young people, such as libraries and malls and coffee shops, are good candidates.
Please contact YouthCare's Safe Place Coordinator Jillian Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about the program or how your business can partner to make King County a safer place for youth. More information about National Safe Place can be found on their website.