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Youth crisis outreach program comes to Brainerd

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota in Brainerd is launching a new service called Safe Place—a national outreach program that provides immediate help and safety to young people in crisis.

Safe Place is a program with the mission to educate young people about the dangers of running away and to teach skills to resolve difficult, threatening situations. The initiative aims to catch kids early and involve community organizations such as libraries, schools, fire stations and businesses to connect young people to support they need.

Lutheran Social Service launched Safe Place in Duluth four years ago. The statewide organization is now expanding the initiative to seven other communities across Minnesota where the organization has a strong presence of youth services that include street outreach, emergency shelter, transitional living options and life skills classes. Communities are Brainerd, Cloquet, Mankato, Rochester, Virginia, Willmar and the Twin Cities.

"We know that early intervention in kids' lives is critically important," explained Kathy Sauve, program director for Lutheran Social Service in Brainerd in a news release. "We got involved in Safe Place because we believe that we can all watch out for our kids and play an active role in making sure they get the help they need early on before smaller problems become much larger."

According to Wilder Research, 4,000 youths are homeless on any given night in the state. More than 48 percent of those youths live in greater Minnesota.

Sauve said in the news release Lutheran Social Service will approach community organizations to participate in Safe Place. Participating locations would receive special training and display a recognizable Safe Place yellow and black diamond-shaped logo, signaling to youths of their participation in the Safe Place program. Once a young person seeks help from a Safe Place site, staff at this site contacts Lutheran Social Service. Within 30 minutes, a representative from LSS will arrive to talk with the young person and offer resources including counseling support or a place to stay.

As part of the Safe Place program, Lutheran Social Service is also launching TXT 4 HELP, a 24-hour service for youth in crisis to get immediate access to help and safety. Teens can text the word "SAFE" along with their current location to 69866 and receive a text message with the name and address of the closest designated Safe Place, as well as the number for the youth shelter.

For more information or to become a Safe Place site, contact Sauve at 218-824-3773 or kathy.sauve@lssmn.org.

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