BOISE, Idaho — For decades, the Idaho Youth Ranch's Hays House in Boise has been the only location in the Treasure Valley to serve runaways and homeless kids in crisis.
Now, it's an officially-designated safe place, and part of the National Safe Place Network.
“Idaho Youth Ranch will be the first designated safe place in Idaho,” CEO Scott Curtis said.
The goal is to provide shelter to youth who need immediate help.
“There are a lot of young people who are struggling, there are a lot of challenges and those have not gone away with the pandemic," Curtis said. "As a matter of fact, a lot of research is saying kids are struggling even more with challenges at home - isolation and domestic abuse - and Idaho Youth Ranch stands with those youth and families."
Here's how it works: Community businesses and organizations display yellow safe place signs, which lets people know they're at a safe place, with someone ready and available to help.
Right now, the Idaho Youth Ranch's Hays House and its thrift stores are designated as safe places. The nonprofit plans to partner with more places and organizations in Idaho soon.
“Those locations are then trained to contact Idaho Youth Hays shelter and we take it from there,” Curtis said. “We get kids from all sort of backgrounds, we get kids that refer themselves and show up at the Hays Shelter House, we get young people whose parents call and ask for help and we get folks off the street or coming through police officers or Health and Welfare.
"What we try to do is provide a medium, wrap-around services and stabilize everything in their lives while we're assessing their housing situation and trying to solve that,” Curtis added.
The Hays House serves kids ages 8 to 17 with safety, support, counseling and a place to stay.
“It is a wonderful home environment," Curtis said. "Last year we provided over 3,000 shelter nights for young people in the Treasure Valley who otherwise would have been on the street or sleeping on someone's couch or in an otherwise vulnerable position."
The group plans to work with schools, police and fire departments in the coming months to expand the number of safe places available.
Businesses and organizations that would like to be designated as a partner location are asked to call the Idaho Youth Ranch at (208) 322-6687.
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