Light-rail program aiding homeless youth expands into Mesa

With light rail expanding into central Mesa, Valley Metro has added emergency contact spots for Safe Place, a crisis hotline for teens, at each of the four new stations.

“The light-rail stations are community assets in the city that they’re in, and it should be a safe place for anyone to get to, especially youth,” said Ann Glaser, a Valley Metro spokeswoman.

Safe Place is a national program aimed at helping those ages 12 to 17 who have run away or don’t feel safe in their own homes. Light-rail stations in Phoenix and Tempe have already served as emergency contact spots with call boxes connecting to Safe Place representatives working with the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development in central Phoenix.

“Within 45 minutes to an hour after making that call, we will have them in a safe location,” said Ken Lynch, chief communications officer for Tumbleweed Center. “They can get food, clothing, a place to rest and relax and meet with a counseling staff.”

Lynch said the expansion of Safe Place contact spots into central Mesa is one of many moves the Tumbleweed Center is taking to reach more youths in the East Valley. The center currently is working on a mobile outreach program that takes a van to places in Chandler, Scottsdale and other East Valley cities frequented by homeless individuals.

Glaser said Safe Place contact spots will also be provided at three light-rail stations opening in north Phoenix in spring 2016.