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13. Valley Metro connects youth to a safe place
Episode 1323rd August 2022 • Storylines • Valley Metro
00:00:00 00:26:04

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Valley Metro is a proud partner of the national youth outreach program Safe Place which helps teens in crisis. Listen as Brittany and Madeline learn about the program and its history from Lisa Scarber of Child Crisis Arizona. Then, our hosts sit down with Security Officer Reg Randle to talk about his experience helping teens while on the job.

Learn more about Safe Place at: https://www.valleymetro.org/how-to-ride/safety/safe-place

Transcripts

Brittany:

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of your daily commute?

Madeline:

Or how transportation impacts the community you call home?

Brittany:

Maybe you want to explore outside your community and don't know where to start.

Madeline:

Well, you're in luck because this is where you hop on.

Brittany:

I'm Brittany Hoffman.

Madeline:

And I'm Madeline Phipps.

Brittany:

We work in communications for Valley Metro, and together we'll discover all the ways that public transit enhances lives across the cities we serve.

Madeline:

And we might even make some new friends along the way.

Brittany:

Welcome to Storylines. Hey, Maddie, do you know the Valley Metro motto?

Madeline:

Believe it or not, I do know it. Do you want me to tell it to you?

Brittany:

Of course I do.

Madeline:

Okay. It's "connecting communities and enhancing lives."

Brittany:

So obviously we know we do that every day through our transit and different modes of transportation, but did you know there's a program called Safe Place, and that's one more way we're enhancing lives?

Madeline:

I think I'm a little bit familiar. I definitely know, I've seen the yellow diamond stickers throughout our system, but tell me more.

Brittany:

partner with Safe Place since:

Madeline:

Wow, so we're going on almost 10 years now.

Brittany:

Yes, Mattie, this program is amazing because any youth and crisis can go to a bus, a light rail station or a streetcar and click that emergency callbacks button or let the operator know that they need a Safe Place. Now I can tell you all about the program and what we do here, but I think it's best to hear it from people who are actually involved with helping the youth.

Lisa:

My name is Lisa Scarber and I am the Safe Place manager. And I am also one of the agency trainers for Child Crisis Arizona.

Madeline:

So many of our listeners may not be familiar with Safe Place. So could you tell us what it is?

Lisa:

Yeah, I'd love to! So many people have not heard of Safe Place, even those who have lived in the Valley all their lives. Safe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for youth who are under the age of 18 and who are in need of immediate health and safety. We work with youth who are in all different types of crisis.

National Safe Place is a collaborative community prevention initiative. So Safe Place designates different businesses, organizations and other agencies to make help available to youth all across the community, all across the country. And our Safe Place program covers all of Maricopa County, which is, as you guys know, tons of miles. We have portions in Apache Junction, Tolleson, Buckeye, Casa Grande. So we cover a lot of miles for Maricopa County.

Some of the Safe Place locations include of course Valley Metro, which is one of our largest partners, as well as QuikTrip, libraries, YMCAs, fire stations, and other not-for-profit agencies. And so what we do is we work with national Safe Place and we became the Maricopa County Safe Place agency.

And we are Child Crisis Arizona. We work with families and kids to make safe kids and strong families. And so Safe Place is an awesome and natural fit to be a part of Child Crisis Arizona.

When a youth is in crisis, they can go to any of the Safe Place locations, any of the Valley Metro hubs, light rails, bus stations, any of the QuikTrips or other agency partners, anywhere where you see a yellow and black triangle that says Safe Place. And you can walk in, ask a staff member to help them get a safe place.

Brittany:

Safe Place is a huge program here in the Valley that youth can take advantage of to get themselves out of those critical crisis type situations. You keep mentioning national Safe Place. Where did it all start and how did it get here?

Lisa:

Louisville, Kentucky. Then in:

Madeline:

Could you describe some of the issues that these youth in crisis are often facing? Is there like a type of problem that is really common or a reason why a younger person would use the Safe Place resources?

Lisa:

We see so many different scenarios. Our program is one of the programs that is not very cut and dry. We see crisis of all different sorts of situations. We do, of course, see a lot of youth who are homeless. We see a lot of youth who are runaways, kicked out, parents may decide that they no longer want to or are willing to care for the youth. So we do temporarily house youth in those situations.

We also see situations where youth have gotten lost. They've recently moved to the Valley and couldn't find their way home. And, I'll also say this, you know, Valley Metro and QT and all of our partners are absolutely amazing at really reaching out to the youth, which is really appreciative because we have a lot of youth who are in these crisis situations who aren't familiar with Safe Place, but the staff go above and beyond and reach out to the youth. Are you okay? Do you have a place to go? I notice you look upset or you're carrying a lot of luggage, what's going on. Are you with a parent? So I love that about the community partners we work with, and then in turn, they refer the kids to us.

So in that particular situation I kind of diverted from, a kid was lost, wandered around the bus stop, and was kind of sitting there for a while. And the bus driver noticed them a couple times and then, you know, asked, "Hey, are you okay?" And then we were able to get in contact with the youth. They called us and we picked up the youth and helped them get back home.

You know, we've also had kids who been to parties and didn't feel safe and they were scared to call their parents. So we were kind of those mediators. Unfortunately, we've seen lot of cases of human trafficking where during times where they've been going to court and were testifying against their trafficker, we've housed them so they would feel safe. Domestic violence situations, we've seen so many different types of individuals who've come.

We worked with a lot of undocumented youth who have no place to go. We get a lot of youth who have come across the border to stay with a sponsor, a family member, a friend, and then are told to leave. So we've been able to work with them as well. So we take all sorts of cases that, I mean, I could probably spend all day talking about the various youth we see.

Brittany:

Lisa, you covered a plethora of reasons that youth would need to come find a Safe Place. And every incident receives its own response because obviously they're not all cookie cutter. But when someone calls a Safe Place, what can they expect to happen kind of as those next steps?

Lisa:

So when a youth calls us or one of our agency partners calls us, we always try to get a general idea of what's going on. We talk with the youth, we ask them some questions to make sure they're safe, to make sure they want to come to our shelter, to see what kind of support and advocacy we could provide for them.

So we do just a quick phone screening, of course, to make sure they're safe, to make sure staff is safe. Then, if needed, we will bring them back to our shelter. And from there, we will do different types of assessments to make sure they get the support and services they need. So there's, you know, of course always paperwork involved, so there's that, but we have amazing and awesome and really caring and supportive staff that work with our youth to make them feel comfortable, to make them feel accepted, to make them feel safe and not judged.

As soon as they come in, we make sure they're safe. We get them, you know, food if they need, hygiene products that they need, clothes if they need. And then depending on the situation and what their needs are, we can connect them with community resources. We have on-site case managers, therapists. We have an on-site nurse practitioner. I mean, so we can really provide a lot of wraparound services. We try to work with both the youth as well as the family, if needed, to provide them with whatever kind of support and needs that they have.

Madeline:

Well, after hearing about some of the hard stuff and some of these challenging situations, could you share some of the success stories that you've seen come out of Safe Place?

Lisa:

Sure! We've had quite a few, luckily. It's why I think the program is so near and dear to my heart, because I have seen so many successes. And that doesn't always mean the big things. A lot of times the successes is just getting the kids off the street for the night, and that's a huge success for me in itself being around and knowing that we're here for the community.

But we've had several success stories in particular. One that I share quite often is we had a youth who came to the US when he was about 13 from another country. It was the first time he had met his dad. He moved in with his dad. His dad was evicted from the apartment and the dad brought him to our shelter because they were homeless. Dad essentially kind of abandoned him at our shelter. And from there we helped him get all his basic needs met, his education met. He did end up going into DCS custody, but we also have foster care programs connected with our agency. So he was able to remain within our care. He actually just left our agency about a month ago. So I've known him for about four years. I was able to be a part of his journey transitioning into foster care. I was there for his citizenship ceremony. He got his driver's license, graduated high school. He saved up enough money to get a car. He's halfway through college now. I mean, so that is a huge one and that's not something we see every single day, right? But I mean to go on that journey with that youth for the past four years, it's just been incredible. And you know, it's kinda like watching your kid grow and be raised and everything like that.

But I mean, that's a huge one, but we've had a lot of kids who have left their homes and get into more supportive homes. We've had kids who have been on the streets for... Just this past, summer or last summer, we reunited a kid with been missing for a year with his aunt in another county. It was really awesome.

Like I said, some of those are big cases, but those really stand out. But like I said, even just being able to provide a family with resources and support and know that there's a place for people to turn when they're in crisis is a really huge success for me because we're one of very few programs that, you know, exist for this population.

Brittany:

Lisa, I think everyone can hear it in your voice. You're very passionate about the Safe Place program and the opportunities it provides to youth in crisis in the Valley. What does it mean for you to be part of this program?

Lisa:

It means a lot. And you're right, I'm very passionate. You know, everything I've done, it's always kind of centered around Safe Place, even though my positions have changed within the agency, I've remained to a Safe Place because I call it my baby, you know? I believe every kid deserves a safe home. I believe every kid deserves to have their basic needs met. I've done a lot of work in different fields. Substance abuse, working with kids who have been sexually abused, and all of that has a great impact, but I love being able to directly see kids come into safety and know that they're being provided for and cared for.

I really feel like Child Crisis Arizona is Safe Place home. We have such a driven mission and a hardworking staff and amazing leadership and a vision for these kids. And I think Safe Place fits right in with that. So I believe we're gonna really even continue to flourish and get our names out there.

Madeline:

Wow. That was really enlightening. I actually didn't realize that Safe Place was a national program. So, I'm really proud that we get to help support this program here in our own backyard in Maricopa County.

Brittany:

Yeah, Maddie, it's a great program and it's hard to measure because we want every teen or youth in crisis to be able to find a Safe Place. And we know that they're out there, but at the same time, knowing how many kids are in crisis and using a Safe Place, it just breaks your heart, but that's why we exist, so that they have somewhere to go when they know that they're in trouble and they just need to get out of a bad situation. So after the break, we're gonna hear from one of our frontline staff who is ready to assist when there's a teen needing a Safe Place.

Alex:

Check out the newest and coolest ride in Tempe! Streetcar is now in operation and serving locations on Mill Avenue, Rio Salado Parkway, and Apache Boulevard. Rides are free for the first year of operation!

Peter:

Looking to plan a trip? Use the Valley Metro app! It'll show you the best routes to get you where you want to go. And you can even track buses and light rail trains in real time! Search for the valley Metro app on the apple app or Google play stores.

Alex:

Next month is rideshare month! Get all the information you need on finding or sharing a ride at sharetheride.com. It recommends partners for vanpooling, carpooling, or taking public transit. Visit sharetheride.com to get started today.

Madeline:

Okay, it was great to get Safe Place's perspective on how our partnership works. So now we're gonna hear from a Valley Metro employee who's one of the first to respond when there's a youth on our system that's requesting a Safe Place.

Randle:

My name is Officer Reg Randle. I work contract with Valley Metro. We're with Allied Universal Security and I work on the second floor of the main building here on property. And I do the overnight shift, the graveyard shift, taking care of communicating with all my officers out in the field. And that includes my field security officers, lieutenants, sergeants, and so forth. Whenever they have an issue, they need me to roll the police department for whether it's Mesa, Tempe, or Phoenix, I can roll PD for the Fire Department, for the PD for UPC urgent psychiatric care center, for CBI community bridges and things of that nature. So basically we handle all of our communications issues with my officers in the field and the upper commanders.

Brittany:

How long have you been working light rail security and what has been your journey to get to the point where you are now?

Randle:

security since approximately:

Madeline:

All right. So you mentioned that you work overnight. So will you tell us what's it like in a typical night on the job?

Randle:

Organized chaos. Some nights can be really chill and it's great. And you go through the night, you show up on your shift, everything is running reasonably smooth, a few little glitches here and there, and then you have those nights where you might get a train derailment, you might have an accident, a car versus car, car versus train, unfortunately from time to time, car versus pedestrian, it can get really chaotic.

We deal with a lot of medical issues. A lot of people will come to the platform. They see the lights of the platform and they need emergency assistance. So they will come and they will hit the emergency call box and contact us up. We have a lot of people with, this time of the year, dehydrating, not getting enough water and so forth, and heat strokes. So there's a lot of things that can happen even at night.

Brittany:

Randle, it sounds like you have to be on your toes definitely while you're dealing with different situations every night coming about. I know that one of the other programs that we have here at Valley Metro is Safe Place. Can you walk us through what happens during a Safe Place call?

Randle:

Safe Place call, what happens generally, the teenager or juvenile will come to the platform will hit the emergency call box in many cases. Sometimes they'll approach one of my officers. If they happen to come in contact with one of my officers, either on one of the trains or on the platform, and they will literally not hesitate. They will literally ask, I need help, I need some place to go, I need shelter, I need police assistance, I need medical assistance, whatever it happens to be. So they'll make contact, like I said, either through one of my officers or through the emergency call box. Once they hit the emergency call box, that rings right up into the control room and myself or one of my associates will take that call, find out where they're located, what platform they're on and exactly what it is that they need.

Sometimes they're coming from a situation where they got into an argument with a family member and maybe they got kicked out or maybe they left her on their own and they just ran away because they couldn't deal with their pressures or what was going on at home. And it literally can cover a myriad of reasons why they would leave or why they would get kicked out.

We generally don't get into the sordid details of their personal family life. We just wanna find them a safe place to shelter until we can come up with alternative places for them to go and, and things for them to do. So they'll come and they will access the button, and immediately we will send a sergeant, one of our field supervisors, out to the platform or wherever they're at and stay with them as we get this process rolling and we will not leave their side until Safe Place arrives on scene and takes over from that point.

So we gather their name, date of birth, as much information as we can from them. I will then, or my associates will then, phone Safe Place and start the process. And so we'll give them all the information that they need. And then they'll have several questions for us in addition. And, uh, a lot of times they'll wanna speak with the juvenile if it's possible or available. Sometimes I'll have to do third party and I'll answer questions back and forth and give the information to each person. Once that's set up, I'll speak with one of the directors over at Safe Place and then get their information. So that way, when they show up, we know who they are. In other words, we don't want a total stranger showing up pretending to be this, that, or the other, and we hand this person over to someone who has other designs that's not in the interest of that person. So we wanna make sure that when we hand this juvenile over, it's to actual workers that work for Safe Place. So it's a lot of detailed information so we get the make and model of the car before they show up. So when they show up, yes, that's the gray Toyota Prius that they said was coming. We get the description of the person, their driver's license information. It's quite detailed because we wanna make very, very sure that this person is not being given to the wrong person.

Madeline:

That makes sense. So do you have, an estimate for how often you get a Safe Place call?

Randle:

In the five, six years that I've been with the organization and out in the field, I've had people come and approach me asking for assistance. And then here in the control room during the overnight again, I've had people call in on the ECB asking for assistance. And so I probably have done roughly, at least a good dozen, a good 12 myself. And again, you have to think again, that's spread out over five, maybe six years. Now having said that, you have to think during other shifts, other officers will encounter people who need the help, the assistance. But speaking specifically for myself, I would say it's a good 12 that I've done.

Brittany:

Can you tell us about one Safe Place incident without going into too much detail in terms of how it came out and how you felt being a part of that>

Randle:

Right. To be honest with you. They're all quite different because each person who approached in one way or another to get the help that they're asking for, they're coming from a different situation. Not every situation is going to be textbook perfect as, being the same situation. So I would say the last one I had, it was in the vicinity of 19th Avenue and Camelback at the light rail station. There a young lady, I think she was about 15, 16 years old, she approached one of my sergeants and explained to him what was going on and that she needed help. And she was in fear of her life and so forth. He brought her back to the kiosk, and the great thing about the kiosk is that it has a camera. So that one of the things we want to do is keep this person under surveillance at all times, so that we can keep an eye on them and make sure that they're safe during the process. And so we want them in one spot. I got the sense that she felt safe at that point because she was in a well lit room with people wearing uniforms, being very professional and helping her out to the best their ability. And she looked like she was no longer in a threatening situation, because again, it was late at night and for, especially a young female, I would imagine that that's even a little more fearful, even for a young man as well, I'm sure.

But in any event, we kept her under the camera so I could see her from my office miles away. In other situations, we would have them on the platform and stay in camera view on the platform. So we would have them sit somewhere near a camera where we could see 'em at all times. And at all times we always have someone with them. We will always have a sergeant, an FSO, a lieutenant, one of the upper commanders, someone is going to be there with him or her at all times.

I have to say it, it's very gratifying to know that you help someone out in that situation because there, I believe the estimate that I read somewhere along the way, 10,000 teens annually run away and need help and so forth. And so to be able to do my small, small part, even to help one person, even if it's just one a year, one a month, you know, one a year is one too many. And to be able to help him or her, it's gratifying to know that they're going to be safe. Keep in mind that as far as it goes, this is something that's 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, regardless of the time, regardless of the day, if it's a holiday, it does not matter. If a young person needs help, we are there 24 hours a day, every day without fail.

Madeline:

Well, Brittany, when I knew we were gonna be covering Safe Place for this episode, I wasn't too excited because obviously it's a tough subject matter, not the most positive thing to think about, but I would say that after talking with Lisa and Reg and hearing from these two people that are really diligent in their work and care so much about what they do every day, I actually do feel a lot better knowing that this program exists.

Brittany:

Oh yes Maddie, being able to help teens in the Maricopa County region, it's just one more way that Valley Metro is being a good community partner, and definitely hearing from Lisa and Reg, you know, that this program means so much and brings joy to them to be able to do good in the Valley. And I think that's what's important is now there's lots of teens to know they can go to a Safe Place.

Madeline:

And if you're interested in learning more about this program, head to valleymetro.org/SafePlace.

Brittany:

So that's it for this episode of storylines, but if there's things you wanna know about Valley Metro, email us at podcast@valleymetro.org and let us know what you want us to talk about.

Madeline:

And remember, there are plenty of other episodes of storylines to catch up on. If you haven't heard them yet, make sure to subscribe to storylines wherever you get your podcast. So you never miss an episode and drop us a review.

Brittany:

For Valley Metro I'm Brittany.

Madeline:

I'm Madeline.

Brittany:

Thanks for riding with us.

Madeline:

We'll meet you at the next stop.

Storylines is produced by Peter Corkery, Alex Tsotsos and Dane Ryals. Taylor Dunn is the executive producer. I'm Madeline Phipps with Brittany Hoffman. Thanks for listening.

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