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John Lundy, Forum News Service, Published March 15 2014

A ‘Safe Place’ for troubled kids

DULUTH, Minn. – Finding himself on the streets of Duluth, Jon Knauer knew he had a safe place he could turn to.

Then 17, Knauer walked up the stairs to Renaissance House one day last July.

“I just told them that I wasn’t really doing good,” Knauer said during a recent interview. “I was in an unsafe environment. … I wanted to clean myself up, focus on a straight path.”

Operated by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Renaissance House offers transitional housing and other services to youth and young adults.

But it’s also one of 28 Duluth locations designated as a “Safe Place” – a place kids can go as a first step if they’ve been kicked out of the house or run away or otherwise gotten in trouble.

The program is experiencing growing pains. It’s short on volunteers and word has been slow to get out to student populations, organizers say.

In almost a year of operation, only eight youths have taken advantage of Safe Place, said Dawn Shykes, program director for LSS in Duluth. But that isn’t below expectations, because organizers really didn’t know what to expect.