Columbus Library branches designated "safe place" for homeless youth

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Connecting young people in need to help - that's the aim of a new partnership involving the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

And there are new options for youth with no place else to turn.

It is a reality no one wants to be true: An estimated 2000 young people in Columbus, homeless.

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"That breaks my heart every time I go home, knowing that I have a home to go to, and these young people do not," said Kyra Crockett-Hodge.

She leads youth outreach at Huckleberry House, the only youth shelter in Columbus.

"It could just be a young person going through a crisis situation that they need a break from home right now. Or we have young people who are actually living on the land, who have been homeless for a while now," she said.

One of the hurdles facing those teens is knowing where to find the help that exists.

"If I'm on the west side of town, or I'm on the south side of town and I need help, how am I going to get to Huckleberry House?"

Through a new partnership, every branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library is a designated 'Safe Place' connected to the services of Huck House.

"The Safe Place is really an opportunity to expand our front porch to the community," Crockett-Hodge said. "So young people who had the obstacle of finding Huckleberry House or getting here, can now go to any one of those places, tell them that they're there for the Safe Place program, and Huck House will send a cab to pick that kid up and bring them to huckleberry house."

The Library says the partnership makes perfect sense.

"Here in the summertime when kids are out of school, we see so many of them here in our libraries and our staff build incredible relationships with them," said spokesperson Ben Zenitsky. "That's what we're here for. Our staff members can do more than recommend a good book. They can really help children in need and point them in the direction of resources that can help them."

Help that could change - even save - a young person's life.

Huckleberry House also partners in the "Safe Place" program with the Columbus Division of Fire, White Castle, and Kroger.

Adding in the 23 library branches, there are now one 115 "Safe Place" sites where young people can go for help.

For more information, click here.