Teens in trouble can get help with a call or text
The Safe Place number is 425-877-5171.
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — For an increasing number of Snohomish County children who need it, shelter for the night is only a call away. The Safe Place hotline helps hurting youth find a little security amid their chaotic reality.
Last week, it was two teenagers on the side of state Route 99. They made the 2 a.m. call when a state agency placement did not come through and plans to stay with a friend failed. Navigator Harpreet Gill found them by the roadside on the chilly night, one in a tank top and shorts. “Before I could even pull out of the driveway, they were passed out,” said Gill, who works for Cocoon House, the teen shelter nonprofit.
The Safe Place number is 425-877-5171. It operates all hours, accepting phone calls and texts.
Cocoon House has answered 325 Safe Place calls from youths under 18 this year as of August. With a third of the year left to go, 2018 will likely mark a record high: Safe Place calls from youth totaled 389 in 2017 and 373 in 2016. Total call volume including over-18 callers is up too, from 1,004 calls in 2016 to 1,305 calls in 2017.
Safe Place provides help for youth under 18 and referrals for older people.
The effort launched five years ago and began adding partners. Today, 48 locations and agencies are designated Safe Places where youth can ask for help to be connected to shelter and resources.
Cards with the number are in “libraries, fire stations, there’s a Lego store in Everett: Places where youth are visible, it’s easy for youth to grab a card and call,” said program navigator Harpreet Gill.
Gill and three other navigators rotate one-week long shifts, taking calls and case managing 24/7.
The reasons for the calls are too many to list. Some children are exiled from their homes by parents impaired by substance abuse. Sometimes parents will not accept their child’s sexual identity, or circumstances such as pregnancy.
Sometimes caregivers abuse or neglect the youth, leaving them to strike out on their own in desperation, anger, and hurt.
Youth may find home untenable for many reasons.
They find a little respite when they see the bright yellow home-shaped Safe Place signs and make the call.
Program navigators drive the children to a program residence where they are given warm beds, meals and social support. That support includes case management and help getting to and staying in school. There are TVs and video games, a well-stocked kitchen and full-time staffers to cook hot meals.
Safe Place callers find space in an Everett or Monroe Cocoon House shelter about 75 percent of the time, Gill said. When those are full, the agency ensures them a place with Snohomish County or King County shelters.
After the first night, care coordinators begin long-term planning to help the children heal and thrive.
They focus on reunification, said housing director Rachel Mathison, and identifying the supports a family needs to function. Therapists meet with children and families to facilitate.
When reunification is impossible, staffers try to house the homeless within their communities, finding other family members or friends when possible, Mathison said.
The list of Safe Place partners has grown over the years. It includes all Snohomish County Boys and Girls Clubs, all Sno-Isle Libraries, all YMCAs, Workforce Development Centers, and Everett Public Libraries. The Mukilteo Fire Department is one of the most recent partners, joining in March.
Services are provided within Cocoon House’s annual budget of $4.7 million.
The program is a branch of a national effort that began in Louisville, Kentucky in 1983.
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