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Project Safe Place comes to Somerset

Project Safe Place has arrived in Somerset.

Project Safe Place is offered through Positive Alternatives (PA). PA is based out of Menomonie, serving six counties in western Wisconsin, including St. Croix and Polk counties.

There are two locations in Somerset that have stepped up to serve as local locations for Project Safe Place. EconoFoods at 107 Parent Street will serve as one of the sites. The second site will be at 124 Spring Street, the office shared by Bridge Bible Church and Journey Points Therapy Service. The Project Safe Place sites will have yellow stickers in the shape of yield signs designating their status as a shelter.

Project Safe Place offers a safe shelter for youth in crisis. The people at the local Safe Place sites contact the Positive Alternatives hotline when youth come to them for help.

Positive Alternatives offers a number of services to residents of St. Croix County. The services include:

-- 24-hour emergency shelter care;

-- Individual and family counseling;

-- Walk-in counseling;

-- Youth Outreach;

-- Prevention/Education presentations.

All services from Positive Alternatives are free and confidential. Positive Alternatives does outreach services and will make presentations for schools, businesses and churches.

On Friday, Jamie Lawrence-Olson, the assistant executive director and TeenCare program coordinator, provided a training session for employees of the Somerset Project Safe House sites. Counselors from the Somerset School District also attended the training session.

Lawrence-Olson said running away is a significant issues for teens. She said Pierce County had 127 runaways in 2007 and Barron County had 118. St. Croix County had 99, not including numbers from New Richmond, which were not available. She said the service is a place for parents and teens to discuss their problems. There's always someone to listen on the other end of the 24-hour hotline (800-491-TEEN).

"About 50 percent of the hotline calls are from parents and the other 50 percent are from teens," Lawrence-Olson said. "Most calls are to 'vent' and we calm the callers down and provide them with referrals to resources if needed."

The hotline receives between 325 and 350 calls a year, according to Lawrence-Olson. Of those calls, 22 youth and 11 adults were from St. Croix County last year.

Some youth in crisis call and just need a time out from family and friends, said Lawrence-Olson.

"We can provide voluntary shelter up to 14 days with parental permission," Lawrence-Olson said. "In the past five-and-a-half years, I've only known two or three parents to refuse permission."

There are three crisis homes located in Menomonie, but PA staff will pick up teens in crisis if they have no transportation. The average stay at the crisis homes is three to four days and there is a 95 percent reunification rate with families.