At-risk kids get a new safe haven

It’s a bigger safety net for kids, an immediate way out of dangerous situations.

That’s how Cocoon House CEO Cassie Franklin describes a new program, National Safe Place. Bright yellow “Safe Place” signs will soon show up on all Everett Transit buses. The signs are part of the National Safe Place effort to let kids know that help is available for the asking.

Cocoon House, a local agency that shelters and provides other programs to at-risk young people, is working with Everett Transit to bring National Safe Place to Snohomish County.

“It allows us to reach kids in that moment they want help,” Franklin said. It could be late at night. A child might be a runaway, or may have left a dangerous party.

Drivers on all buses with “Safe Place” signs will be trained to help, Franklin said. If a young person asks, the driver will call Cocoon House to send a “navigator,” a staff member available around the clock to pick up that child or teen. Help could be as simple as a ride home, or as comprehensive as emergency shelter and counseling.

“It’s an exceptional program,” Franklin said.

Cocoon House will officially launch National Safe Place at Saturday’s grand opening of its new Cocoon Outreach Center in Everett. The event, open to the public, is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the center at 1421 Broadway.

The two-story outreach center is several blocks north of the former Cocoon House U-Turn Drop-In Center. That facility was in leased space. Cocoon House used grant money to buy and renovate the building for its new outreach center, formerly Old West Mortgage.

The new center is more than double the size of the old U-Turn site, with upstairs space for a WorkSource representative and a drug and alcohol treatment coordinator from Catholic Community Services. There’s room, too, for a shower and full kitchen.

“It’s a wonderful space,” Franklin said. The new center will have Cocoon House staff to help kids with housing and counseling information, school goals or reconnecting with family. Many teens on the streets are involved in gangs or are sexually exploited, she said.

“It’s nice to have all those services right there, with food, a place to get inside from the rain, so they can just spend time being a kid again,” Franklin said.

National Safe Place is one more way to help get kids off the streets. Franklin said Safe Place signs will be displayed first on Everett Transit buses, but the program may grow to include libraries and other venues.

Although it’s a partnership with Everett Transit, Franklin said Cocoon House is the lead agency for the program here. With a cost of about $70,000 per year, most of that for staff time, National Safe Place is supported locally by the Evertrust Foundation, the Howarth Foundation and individual donors. “We are still in search of additional funding partners,” Franklin said.

Steffani Lillie, an Everett Transit spokeswoman, isn’t sure when signs will go up on buses, but said Tuesday that Cocoon House and transit agency administrators recently took part in Safe Place training. Driver training will follow that, she said.

“We’re still working out logistics,” Lillie said. Along with Cocoon House navigators, transit inspectors may also be called upon to take kids to safe places, she said.

“We currently operate in 41 of 50 states at nearly 20,000 Safe Place locations,” said Hillary Bond, a spokeswoman for National Safe Place. Based in Louisville, Ky., the program was started in 1983.

National Safe Place has been in operation in King County about two years, Franklin said. While Cocoon House is licensed to run the program in Snohomish County, in the Seattle area it is run by YouthCare.

Around the country, Bond said, Safe Place signs are up in buses, YMCAs, fire stations, grocery stores and fast-food restaurants.

“Teens may be experiencing a family crisis, bullying or sexual identity issues. We want them to seek help,” Bond said. “The ultimate goal is to reunite the child with their family, if possible.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Grand opening

The Cocoon House Outreach Center will host a grand opening 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at its new facility, 1421 Broadway, Everett. It will include the launch of National Safe Place. RSVP requested, not required; email julio.cortes@cocoonhouse.org

Information about Cocoon House: www.cocoonhouse.org/index

Information about National Safe Place: http://nationalsafeplace.org

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