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Phx light-rail system helps offer young people in trouble a safe place
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Phx light-rail system helps offer young people in trouble a safe place

  • Dion Austin says connecting with Safe Place, a national youth outreach program, helped get him off the street after he was banished from home.
    Elisa Cordova/Cronkite News ServiceDion Austin says connecting with Safe Place, a national youth outreach program, helped get him off the street after he was banished from home.
  • Under an agreement announced Wednesday, emergency call boxes at 28 Valley Metro light-rail stations will allow young people to connect with Safe Place.
    Elisa Cordova/Cronkite News ServiceUnder an agreement announced Wednesday, emergency call boxes at 28 Valley Metro light-rail stations will allow young people to connect with Safe Place.

PHOENIX – Banished from home, Dion Austin, then 17, brushed his teeth at fast-food restaurants and slept in parks for three months before going to Avondale’s police station in hopes of starting a new life.

Someone there referred him to Safe Place, a national youth outreach program that connected him with a youth crisis center. Austin now lives in a group home and has been attending college and working full-time.

“Because of Safe Place I’m off the streets,” he said.

Now those in Austin’s situation can get help from Safe Place by using an emergency call box at any of Valley Metro’s 28 light-rail stations.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton joined Austin and others Wednesday at a news conference announcing the partnership. It extends a network that already includes many convenience stores, banks and libraries.

“In our city, in our Valley, there are no throwaway kids,” Stanton said at the Camelback and Central light-rail station. “We need to do everything we can to wrap our arms around our young people.”

A national program operated in the Valley by the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, Safe Place provides immediate assistance to young people who go to places that are part of the program.

Cynthia Schuler, CEO of the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, said 129 teens used Safe Place’s services last year, including those who faced family problems, were homeless or had run away from home. Adding Valley Metro to the program is a natural next step, she said.

“Now that we have this site, we expect that number to increase because they’ll have more access to Safe Place,” Schuler said.

Teens looking for the nearest Safe Place location can text their address to 69866 or call 866-723-3703 or 602-841-5799.

Austin’s journey to help took him from the Avondale police station in a taxi arranged by a nearby QuickTrip, which participates in Safe Place.

“That taxi ride was a lead to my success,” he said.

Seeking help

- Go to a location with a Safe Place sign.
- Text street address, city and state to 69866 for directions to the nearest location.
- Call 1-866-723-3703 or 602-841-5799.
- More information: www.tumbleweed.org

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greg stanton, homelessness, teenagers,

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