Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- A nationwide program offering immediate help to youth in crisis continues to grow in Duluth, the first in the state.
Through "Safe Place," a safety net for homeless and run-away youth is being woven through the community, giving youth support in a time of need.
At some point growing up, we all have problems with family and friends and at school, or work. But some young people don't have a trusted place to turn to. Safe Place aims to help them.
"We just want to make sure that all youth in our community know that there are people out there in both the business community and the social service community, and volunteers, who really care about them and want to make sure their needs are being met," Dawn Shykes, of LSS Bethany Crisis Shelter said.
Whatever the reason, a young person who needs help can get assistance at nearly 85 Safe Place sites in Duluth.
Safe Places like fire stations, libraries and Duluth Transit Authority Buses have employees who are specially trained to help in a crisis situation.
"We are open, we are here,” Deputy Chief Charles Smith of the Duluth Fire Department said. “That's what we do, we assist our community. Youth should feel comfortable coming to their fire stations to ask for help and to get where they need to go."
"We are a community based organization and we want to serve families and anyone in need,” Angel Hohenstein of YMCA said. “That is our goal, to be a safe environment for people to be able to come and feel like they can get what they need here."
A trained Safe Place volunteer will meet a young person at the safe place site and listen to the problem. They'll wait with the youth for a trusted adult to pick them up or they'll take them to the LSS Bethany Crisis Shelter, which offers counseling or other services.
"If we have a youth in our community that runs away from home, or maybe just went on a vacation with the family and gets separated, if there is an issue, and they can see this sign, they know they can go there and get assistance," Shykes said.
Once each neighborhood in Duluth has a Safe Place site, LSS plans to expand the program to neighboring towns.
Nationwide, there are nearly 20,000 Safe Place sites, with 41 states participating in the program.
Youth in crisis who can't find a Safe Place site, can "TXT 4 Help."
By texting the word "safe" along with a current location to 69866, you'll receive a message with the name and address of the closest Safe Place location.
On Friday, Oct. 18, Safe Place organizers will present more information at the St. Louis County Health and Human Service Conference. Program logistics and perspectives from youth who experience Youth will be addressed.