July 30, 2015 A frightened 16-year-old Nevada runaway is safe again thanks to a helpful Valley Metro worker, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development and the Safe Place hotline at a Valley Metro light rail station.
“This is exactly what the system is designed to do,” said Cynthia Schuler, CEO of Tumbleweed in Phoenix, which manages the Safe Place program at Valley Metro light rail stations and QuikTrip stores. “A young person at serious risk and very far from home base needed help right away and got it in less than an hour.”
On the early morning of July 7, a Valley Metro employee noticed the 16-year old riding the light rail system. The youth said he was a runaway from a foster home in Nevada and had previously run away, but only for a few days. This time, he reported he had been on the run for three weeks, hitchhiking, eating from dumpsters and panhandling for cash. He said was tired of running, frightened by his first venture beyond Nevada and “did not know what to do next,” according to Schuler. He had spotted the Safe Place sign and asked for help from the light rail employee.
The pair used the Safe Place hotline at the next light rail station to initiate contact with Tumbleweed. In approximately 45 minutes the youth was at a Tumbleweed residential shelter, where he received food and drink, an opportunity to shower, clean his clothes, and sleep in a comfortable bed. The Tumbleweed Lead Youth Care Worker contacted Child Protective Services in Nevada “where they were very worried about him,” Schuler said. “Nevada CPS said they had filed a runaway report with the police and had been looking for him.”
Tumbleweed and Nevada CPS arranged for the child’s caseworker from Nevada to travel to Phoenix where two days later “there was an emotional reunion,” Schuler said. “Lots of tears and hugs.”
“The youth was grateful to have a roof over his head and a safe environment at Tumbleweed where he could rest and recover from an exhausting ordeal,” Schuler added. “Thanks to the training Valley Metro has done with its employees and the availability of the Safe Place hotline, Tumbleweed staff was able to stabilize this young man and help get him back to a safe environment.”
Safe Place is a national program that makes local hotline service available to teens in crisis 17 and younger. In the Valley, Tumbleweed manages the service and responds to hotline calls. QuikTrip stores and Valley Metro Light rail stations serve as hotline sites and their employees are trained to help young people seeking assistance. Since the program started in the Valley last summer, Schuler says Tumbleweed fields a Safe Place call from a distressed teen roughly every three days.