Monterey County has nearly 600 unaccompanied homeless youth and only one emergency shelter designed specifically to serve them. On Thursday, the shelter reopened with improvements that allow it to offer help every night of the week.
Safe Place is a two-story house located in a residential neighborhood near downtown Monterey. It’s run by the nonprofit Community Human Services, which provides mental health, substance abuse and homeless services in Monterey County.
Safe Place has space for counseling and support services downstairs. Upstairs, there are bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom. That’s where Nicholas Gribens, 22, has been living. He’s been homeless for about a year.
“I'm not out there being influenced by people to do drugs, or influenced by people to shoplift, steal. It prevents a lot of the negative stuff that can happen. It helps me thrive as a person,” Gribens says.
Gribens also gets help with job hunting and basic needs like clothes, toothpaste and food. Safe Place serves about 300 runaway and homeless youth a year, people between the ages of 12 and 24.
On Thursday, Community Human Services held a grand reopening to highlight the renovations. The kitchen has been remodeled and the bathrooms are now handicap accessible. The renovations also include safety improvements that bring the building up to code, like sprinklers. The bedroom windows are now big enough to get out of in case of a fire. These improvements mean Safe Place can now stay open seven nights a week.
“Which is huge,” Safe Place Program Officer Lilah Handler says. “Before, we only were able to provide it maybe five days a week.”
Safe Place has 12 beds.
“It's scary anytime it's cold and you don't feel like you have a warm place to stay. But, I think the fact that we're open seven days a week, provides them with the safety of knowing that they do have somewhere to be,” Handler says.
The renovations cost around $250,000 and took about six months. The City of Monterey, Monterey Rotary Club, Pacific Rotary Club and donations to Community Human Services made the remodel possible.