By Crystal Harrell

In the year 2018 alone, there were 1,698 young people reported as runaways in Riverside County. The SafeHouse Emergency Shelter Programs in Riverside and Thousand Palms provided 700 at-risk youth with emergency crisis intervention services and over 9,500 were reached through SafeHouse education and outreach programs. In addition, counselors provided over 8,500 hours of counseling and, in the process, have reunited 97% of that youth population into safe and stable environments.

It is this kind of dedication and success rate that has cemented SafeHouse of the Desert as an integral organization centered on youth outreach. The staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for teens and their families who need help negotiating the sometimes difficult path from childhood to independent adult life.

The 20-bed shelter is well-equipped to handle runaway, homeless, and other youth in crisis between the ages of 11 through 24. Shelter services include individual, group, and family counseling, on-site education, substance abuse education, skills lab, and aftercare.

The primary goals of SafeHouse of the Desert are to provide immediate counseling and intervention services for various needs such as inner conflict resolution, child abuse/neglect, and substance abuse. Other focuses include reuniting the youth with their family, foster self-reliance and responsibility, and to create an intervention point for runaway and homeless youth before they become juvenile offenders.

Parents are involved every step of the way in the rehabilitation process. Weekly family counseling sessions are provided and parents are encouraged to participate in parenting classes, both while their child is in the program and even after they graduate from it.

Parents who are interested in early intervention are encouraged to call to set up a screening for their child. A Marriage and Family Therapist will guide them through program expectations and what the family as a whole will receive from the unique holistic approach to crisis intervention. The ideology behind this method is to open the lines of communication and build hope that it is possible for personal situations to get better, and that trust can be rebuilt.

SafeHouse of the Desert provides additional programs, such as Art Nights led by SafeHouse Art Director Lady V and fine artist Amanda James. Each art class features a variety of materials and themes and ends with a healing guided meditation with sound bath. 

Light refreshments are included and attendees are invited to enjoy the SafeHouse Pop Up Boutique after the class is over, which features designer clothing and hand-selected artisan merchandise. Advance reservations are required for the art classes and space is limited to 10 people. For more information or to reserve your spot, contact Valohna Wynn at

Another special event presented on behalf of SafeHouse of the Desert is a performance of “Marilyn, Madness & Me” in the Community Room Theater at the Rancho Mirage Library & Observatory. Performances are scheduled for March 5 and 6, with tickets available for purchase at the SafeHouse of the Desert website.

A new downloadable phone app, What’s Up SafeHouse, is also available to provide anonymous text-communication any hour of the day with a licensed mental health professional from SafeHouse. At-risk youth who are struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, depression, difficult family situations, bullying and other issues can receive help, while remaining anonymous in their  contact. Youth and parents are also encouraged text about their friend or child they feel may be struggling or are in danger.

SafeHouse of the Desert is currently seeking volunteers for their Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing Facility. The Desert Volunteers assist in increasing the community’s awareness of children in crisis by representing the organization at community events and assisting in education and outreach of the organization’s mission. 

These volunteers lead groups with the youth and perform a variety of activities such has cooking, pickle ball, arts and crafts, fitness, calligraphy, and yoga. Interns are also welcomed to assist as support staff for direct care of clients. This includes supervising youth, answering crisis calls, daily reports, and acting as good role models for the kids.

For more information on SafeHouse of the Desert and its programs, contact the shelter at (760) 343-3211.