Porter County Sheriff's Department

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Safe Place for Youths

Valpo offers Safe Place for youths to seek help


By Phil Wieland March 22, 2012

VALPARAISO | Youths looking for a safe place to seek help soon will have dozens of locations in the city, including city buildings and buses.

Mayor Jon Costas read a proclamation at Thursday's meeting of the city's Board of Public Works and Safety announcing the city's joining the national Safe Place program by setting up locations where youths can get immediate help in a crisis ranging from avoiding riding with an unsafe driver to being a victim of violence.

"As a city, we certainly want to do all we can to provide safety for children," Costas said. "By serving as Safe Place sites, we have an opportunity to connect kids with answers."

Safe Place sites will be designated by a diamond-shaped yellow and black sign in the window. The city has 14 businesses currently designated in addition to city hall, the three fire stations and the police department. Porter County Sheriff's Department cars and city police cars also will have them as well as the V-Line buses.

When a young person enters one of the sites requesting help, employees on site will provide comfort until a trained Safe Place representative arrives from the Crisis Center Inc. to help find a solution. The employees will be trained to handle the situation until the Crisis Center agent arrives.

Tyler Kent, the city's transit director and interim planning director, said youths getting on a city bus seeking help will be taken to one of the city facilities to meet with a trained representative.

Shirley Caylor, executive director of the Crisis Center, told the board the program was created in 1997 and is "an active way to reach kids who don't know what to do."

Safe Place Coordinator Nikki Wielgos said, "Every situation is unique, especially for teens who feel there's not a lot of people who care about them."

Among the Safe Place locations in Porter County youths can go for cases like runaways, family crises, homelessness, abuse or other problems are the Boys and Girls Clubs, the United Way, Centier Bank locations and the sheriff's department. The Crisis Center is a United Way agency.

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