King County Metro Transit offers safe space for youth

August 31, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 2:15 p.m. Aug. 31, 2011

Help for troubled teenagers and children is only a bus stop away under a plan King County leaders announced Wednesday.

The county, local service agencies and Safe Place — a national nonprofit organization formed to create community safety nets for young people in crisis — joined for the effort.

Through the program, if a young person in crisis needs help, all he or she has to do is approach a Metro Transit bus driver and say, “I need a safe place.” The driver then makes a call to trigger contact to a youth service provider. The organization then arranges to meet and transport the youth to safety.

Metro Transit and the service agencies— YouthCare, Friends of Youth and Auburn Youth Resources— mean King County is the largest Safe Place partner in the state. The purpose of the program is to put the necessary community resources in place to get help to young people quickly and decrease the potential for harm.

County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, Issaquah’s representative, helped coordinate the partnership.

“Preventing young people from becoming homeless is a big step toward our efforts to solve homelessness and to keep at-risk kids safe,” she said in a statement. “SafePlace expands the reach of our existing youth services by connecting with our network of buses and finding new ways to get help to youth in crisis. Any teen who is scared and alone and confused should know at least one thing — the nearest Metro bus is a safe place to get help.”

Sound Transit Express buses serving King County also participate in the program.

“Young people in crisis with no place to turn can now seek out a nearby Metro bus and find an operator who is ready to help,” County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “Our coaches are out at all hours of the day in all parts of the county, and this offer of a SafePlace should bring a little peace of mind to families. I thank our operators for taking this extra step to protect our region’s youth.”

Once a young person reaches out to a bus driver, the next step depends on the youth’s needs. Sometimes, the problem means counseling and providing help to reunite the child and his or her family. Or, in the absence of alternatives, youth can be taken to a safe shelter.

In addition to help from Metro Transit drivers, young people in King County have another option if they need help quickly. Text 4 HELP is a national SafePlace service to offer information about the closest location to access immediate help and safety. By texting the word “SAFE” and their current location to 69866, youths can get help within moments. In King County, the service connects young people to shelters.

“More than anything, our children deserve to feel safe,” Lambert said. “Keeping just one child out of trouble and out of harm’s way can make the difference for a lifetime of success.”

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