Wall tiles bear affirmations from SafeHouse youth

Wall tiles bear affirmations from SafeHouse youth

Imagine being a teenager in a troubled home where daily life is all about survival; or a pre-teen caught up in drugs and looking for a way out; or a young girl coerced down the wrong path and fearful of those maintaining a strong hold on your life.

How do you get out?

In Riverside County, troubled youth fortunately can go to SafeHouse, which this year celebrates 25 years. Dedicated to the safety and well-being of young runaways, homeless and other youth in crisis, their two locations in Riverside and Thousand Palms have assisted over 15,000 young people get onto a safer, more productive and rewarding path.

The organization offers troubled youth a secure destination in their time of need with structure, stability, counseling and most importantly, understanding and a caring hand. Their primary goal is reunification with the family which in most incidents is involved in the three-week counseling program offered.

There are several components to SafeHouse. The primary facility offers those 11 to 17 shelter and services 24 hours a day. Through local partnerships, a teen may get on any SunLine Transit bus in the valley and ask to be taken to SafeHouse, or they can go into a local McDonald’s or Starbuck’s and arrangements will be made to get them there.

While youth are sometimes brought in by law enforcement, it’s a voluntary program and participants are free to come and go as they wish. However, while in the program, there are strict rules and education is continued on campus with teachers from the Palm Springs Unified School District.

A second component to SafeHouse is Harrison House, a transitional program for youth 18 to 24 seeking the ability and motivation to become productive, independent, and self-sufficient citizens. One- and two-bedroom apartments are offered rent free; however, jobs are a priority and a percentage of income is put into savings so at the end of the 18-month program, enough is saved for a down payment on their own apartment. Staff and volunteers work with these young adults to enhance education, develop financial stability, maintain positive relationships, and set appropriate goals for future self-sufficiency.

The third component to SafeHouse is unfathomable to most, but according to Mary Battin, SafeHouse’s sustainability officer, sex trafficking has become a trade some find more lucrative than drugs. “Traffickers prey on young girls who are missing something in their lives such as love, affection, or guidance from someone older and once they get hooked in, it’s like a drug.” SafeHouse has a home for six girls to whom they provide certified counseling, education and guidance while they recover from their experiences.

SafeHouse is also in the process of developing a phone app which will allow youth to call in anonymously to report issues and concerns about themselves or their friends. The caller is immediately connected to a therapist, but the number and identity are scrambled to maintain the anonymity of the caller. SafeHouse hopes to launch this free app this year and is raising funds through their Break the Stigma Golf Tournament on September 18 at Escena Golf Course (see calendar on page 2).

If you are interested in helping SafeHouse and their youth, there are many opportunities to do so. Volunteers are needed to teach life skills, exercise classes, and even hobbies. Or if you have a talent or interest in art, music, science, or even business, simply spending time and sharing your experience can have a significant impact.

In an effort to keep the teens busy and mentally stimulated, many excursions are planned to places like the Living Desert, movies, museums, etc., so tickets to venues and events are always welcomed. There is also a need for clothing, says Battin, as many of the youth come in with only the clothes on their back.

“We really encourage adults to come in and share their gifts and talents with the kids,” says Battin. “While their appreciation may not be extremely apparent, it truly makes a difference for them to know that people in their community want to see them get better and become successful.”

For volunteer opportunities, please contact Julia Jensen (760) 343.3211 or [email protected]. For tours and donations, contact Mary Battin (760) 567.9421 and for more information on SafeHouse of the Desert visit www.SafeHouseoftheDesert.com.

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