Metro bus is refuge for youths in trouble

September 13, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Help for troubled teenagers and children is only a bus stop away.

King County, local service agencies and Safe Place — a national nonprofit organization formed to create community safety nets for young people in crisis — combined forces 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 places 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 service agencies — including Friends of Youth — joined to create the largest Safe Place partner in Washington. The purpose of the program is to put the necessary community resources in place to aid young people quickly and decrease the potential for harm.

What to know

In addition to help from King County Metro Transit drivers, young people in trouble can use another option to find help quickly. TXT 4 HELP is a national Safe Place service to offer information about the closest location to access immediate help and safety. By texting the word “SAFE” and a current location to 69866, youths can get help within moments. In King County, the service connects young people to shelters.

Learn more about the Safe Place program at www.nationalsafeplace.org and www.youthcare.org.

“It will provide a way for young people who find themselves in crisis to alert someone right away to the challenges and find help instead of finding themselves without a place to go or on the street,” Friends of Youth CEO Terry Pottmeyer said late last week. “We see it as a way to quickly intervene when a crisis arises for a young person.”

Friends of Youth operates a counseling center along Front Street North in downtown Issaquah.

YouthCare and Auburn Youth Resources also participate in the program.

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. “Safe Place 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 after officials announced the program Aug. 31. “Our coaches are out at all hours of the day in all parts of the county, and this offer of a Safe Place 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, youths can be taken to a safe shelter.

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