Safe Place Week celebrates youth homelessness prevention

Bryan Thompson is a Safe Place Coordinator who promotes National Safe Place Week every year. Courtesy photo

By Meghan McLaughlin

Sunday, March 21, marked the beginning of National Safe Place Week. The annual event celebrates the awareness of Safe Place programs that protects youth in crisis.

Local Safe Place Coordinator Bryan Thompson has been with the organization for the past four years. It holds a special place in his heart because he could have benefited from the program when he was a homeless youth. 

“For me, the Safe Place program is really important because we didn’t have those kinds of resources back when I was a younger person,” Thompson said. “It would have been very useful to have somebody to call and talk to and navigate that system with me when I was on my own.”

Safe Place is a program geared toward youth ages 12 to 17 years old who can call a hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and talk to a staff member on the phone who will help navigate the world they are experiencing. Staff will provide counseling or triage case management whether they are reunited with their family, admitted to a shelter, or assisted with essential planning.

“It’s important for people to understand that youth experiencing homelessness are extremely vulnerable in the first 24 hours,” Thompson said. “That’s really why programs like Safe Place exist: to have that immediate access to someone to call and get assistance from.”

Thompson noted that some groups are especially susceptible to issues surrounding housing.

“The majority of our calls are LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness needing assistance,” Thompson said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how big that population is in the homeless youth.”

There is a multitude of Safe Place sites throughout King County. If a youth seeking assistance arrives, staff members will provide them a space to wait until Safe Place comes to help.

“The process can vary,” Thompson said. “It depends on the youth. We’re 100% youth-driven. We’re always trying to do what’s best for them.”

Thompson said there are lot more needs addressed through the Safe Place program than just putting a roof over kid’s heads.

“I see the impact in the youth that we serve,” Thompson said, “whether that be in their successes, being right next to them during their challenges, or seeing them successfully exit the programs and go on to live their lives with their goals intact.”

The most rewarding part of his job, he said, is when past clients return to acknowledge the role Safe Place played in their progress. 

“It’s really cool, and it’s even more amazing to see them come back to programs and say, ‘Hey, I’m doing okay. I’m doing alright,'” Thompson said. “That’s always an amazing feeling when you create such an impact that five years later, they’re still thinking about you and then they come back and say hello.”

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