Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota along with the DTA, city of Duluth and community partners announced establishment of the Safe Place Program in a news conference on March 20. Safe Place is a national outreach program that provides immediate help and safety for young people in crisis. Duluth is the first community in Minnesota to become a Safe Place destination.
Safe Place began in Louisville, KY in 1983 with 39 states currently participating in the program. The mission of the Safe Place Program is to educate young people about the dangers of running away or trying to resolve difficult, threatening situations. The initiative is to provide a “safety net” for youth in crisis and involve public transit services and community organizations to connect them to the support they need.
How Safe Place Works in Duluth:
DTA buses and transit facilities, along with neighborhood Fire Stations, the YMCA and the Spirit Valley Youth Center will display a recognizable Safe Place yellow and black diamond-shaped logo, signaling to youth of their participation in the Safe Place program.
Once a young person has sought help on a DTA bus, the driver contacts the station dispatcher who then calls the 24-hour Safe Place crisis line. Within 30 minutes, a representative from Lutheran Social Service will meet the bus at a designated location along the route to transport the youth to Lutheran Social Service’s Bethany Crisis Shelter. The youth in crisis will remain on the bus as it continues on its route and the pick-up location is coordinated between the DTA dispatcher, driver and the Safe Place counselor. If a youth is seeking a Safe Place when no dispatchers are on duty, the driver will contact 911 for a police escort to the Bethany Crisis Shelter.
Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, an organization that has served youth for decades in the community, will operate the Safe Place Program. Their services include street outreach, emergency shelters, runaway and homeless prevention and intervention, healthcare, and transitional living options.
According to Wilder Research, 2,500 youth are homeless on any given night in Minnesota. More than 40 percent live in Greater Minnesota. Lutheran Social Service’s three emergency crisis shelters in northeastern Minnesota served over 800 youth in 2012.