Mukilteo Fire Department Chief Chris Alexander stands near one of the new signs, indicating that the fire station will be a safe place for teens to go when in crisis. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Mukilteo Fire Department Chief Chris Alexander stands near one of the new signs, indicating that the fire station will be a safe place for teens to go when in crisis. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Mukilteo fire stations are the newest ‘Safe Places’ for youth

It’s among dozens of designated locations countywide organized by Cocoon House in Everett.

MUKILTEO — Young people in any unsafe situation now can find solace at Mukilteo’s two fire stations.

Through Cocoon House, the Mukilteo Fire Department has become a designated “Safe Place” for teens who need support.

“If we can interact with these kids in crisis before an irreversible decision is made, that’s much better for all concerned,” Fire Chief Chris Alexander said. “This is a way to try to prevent these things or deal with them when they’re much more manageable.”

There are 46 other Safe Place locations in Snohomish County, though Mukilteo is the first fire department to participate. The sites are identified by yellow, diamond-shaped signs.

Safe Place sites in Snohomish County

Anyone ages 12 to 17 can come to the fire stations at any time. A firefighter will stay with them until Cocoon House is notified and can pick them up.

The Everett-based nonprofit serves young people who are homeless or at-risk. It will work with those who go to Safe Places to find resources.

Fire Marshal Roger Rudikoff helped coordinate the program for Mukilteo, though it was Alexander’s idea, Rudikoff said. The department started the effort about a year ago, after Alexander realized all the county’s YMCAs were participating.

The fire stations should have the yellow signs up within a couple of weeks, Rudikoff said.

“We’re a natural safe place to visit. We’re here to care for people. It only makes sense,” he said. “In my opinion all fire stations should do this.”

Rudikoff has helped train staff in Mukilteo on the program, and he is offering his research to other departments.

Any organization can become a Safe Place through Cocoon House if they meet certain guidelines, said Harpreet Gill,a supervisor for the nonprofit.

Cocoon House is the local link for the National Safe Place Network, which runs the program throughout the country.

When Cocoon House adopted the initiative in 2012, it helped about one young person find shelter each month. The number has risen to about three per week, and calls are constantly coming in, Gill said.

Shelter isn’t the only outcome.

“If they can stay home, and it’s a safe environment, that’s where we’re going to keep them,” Gill said. “We really assess the situation.”

The majority of those who come to Cocoon House through Safe Places have been kicked out of their homes, she said.

In other cases, they may suffer abuse at home, generational poverty or homelessness, said Elysa Hovard, Cocoon House’s director of outreach.

“The No. 1 root cause of homelessness is family disruption, so these youth come from homes where their parents are homeless themselves, drug addicted, have no place to go,” she said.

Bringing a safe place to Mukilteo is important in recognizing homeless youth in that community, and around the county, Hovard said.

Alexander, the fire chief, wants young people to know they can stop by if they’re being bullied, feeling overwhelmed by school or family pressure, or facing a dangerous situation.

“We want kids to know it’s OK to ask for help, it’s not a sign of weakness,” Alexander said.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com.

Cocoon House designates Safe Places for young people in Snohomish County. Call Cocoon House to find a Safe Place at 425-877-5171, or to create one, call Harpreet Gill at 425-499-6496.

The Mukilteo fire stations are at 10400 47th Pl. W. and 700 Fifth St.

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