"Metro is proud to be a partner in this effort to make our county a safer place to be for young people," Metro operations manager Jim O'Rourke said. "Our operators are accustomed to serving as the community's eyes and ears. Through this program, they can now additionally serve as a bridge in helping to get kids off the street and into the hands of a youth resource agency that can help."
In addition to help from Metro drivers, young people in King County have another option if they need help quickly. "Text 4 HELP" is a National Safe Place service being introduced that uses technology to offer information about the closest location to access immediate help and safety. By texting the word "SAFE" and their current location to 69866, youth can get help within seconds. In the King County area, they will be referred to shelters that will provide the assistance they need.
On any given night, United Way estimates there are 700 to 1,000 young people with no safe place to sleep in Seattle alone. It's estimated that at least 300 to500 children in King County under the age of 18 are sexually exploited each year. That's a troubling statistic, given estimates that one in three runaways will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours.
Through the work of agencies such as YouthCare, Auburn Youth Resources, and Friends of Youth, young people can get the help they need. In 2010, more than 4,000 runaway and homeless young people ages 12 to 24 accessed YouthCare services in Seattle – from street outreach, emergency shelters, meals and drop-in services, to education, employment training, and transitional housing.
The new Safe Place partnership in King County welcomes other organizations and businesses interested in providing additional safe places where youth can get connected with services. Facilities frequented by young people, such as libraries and malls and coffee shops, are good candidates.
"More than anything, our children deserve to feel safe," said Councilmember Lambert. "Keeping just one child out of trouble and out of harm's way can make the difference for a lifetime of success."