YMCA joins National Safe Place Network to help youth in crisis

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Kids in crisis now have more places to go in southern Colorado to get help.

The YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region joined The Place and the Pikes Peak Library District to become a Safe Place for youth in need.

“The YMCA is the largest human service organization in the community. We’re not just about swim and gym. We do a lot of things. Keeping kids and our young people safe in our community is priority No. 1. So we are very humbled to be able to partner with The Place,” said Boyd Williams, the president and CEO of the local YMCA.

The Place, formerly known as Urban Peak Colorado Springs, is a local non-profit that helps homeless youth. Staff say they served more than 600 kids in crisis in 2019.

“Adding on the YMCA allows us to really expand our reach, allow for more opportunities for youth across the city to be able to come into either a Y or a library and say that they need a safe place and then those folks call us and then we contact our group of volunteers, and we’ll send somebody out to help support the youth,” said Audrey Field, The Place’s deputy director and director of programs.

Safe Place is a national program, but Field said the local YMCAs, libraries and The Place are the only sites in Colorado operating as part of the network. There are yellow “Safe Place” signs on the outside of all the buildings where young people can go for support.

“Our team members at each of our locations were trained to be able to understand when a trouble youth comes into our YMCA that we know how to intake them, that we can understand what we’re looking for,” Williams said. “Our YMCAs extend really about 10 minutes. Anywhere you go in this community, you can hit a YMCA … Anywhere that troubled youth may need to go, we’re probably a few minutes’ drive time or walk to that location.”

Field said the YMCAs’ and libraries’ prominence in the community will be able to reach more people than The Place could on its own.

“So for us, being located in downtown Colorado Springs and really supporting youth that are experiencing homelessness or in crisis, our reach is not super broad,” Field said. “So to be able to partner with the Y and the library that is all across the city -- in Monument, in the east side of Colorado Springs, in Fountain -- that allows youth to be able to quickly exit whatever their situation is, get somewhere that is hopefully relatively close to their home and then be connected with us.”

Once a youth in crisis is at a designated Safe Place, staff there will call The Place, and volunteers with the non-profit will figure out the best course of action -- that could include letting the young person stay in The Place’s 20-bed shelter or connecting them with resources.

“We know that the number of youth we’re serving is highly underserved,” Field said. “It’s a hidden population. Youth aren’t often on the streets panhandling with a sign. They’re hidden. They’re in high schools. They’re trying to just live their lives and be teenagers without that stigma of being homeless, so we know that the 600 that we’ve reached, we know there are far more across this city.”

People interested in volunteering with The Place can visit its website or call 719-630-3223.