By Polly Keary, Editor
Teens in need of an emergency place to stay will soon be able to find shelter in Monroe.
For several years, Cocoon House has maintained a shelter in Monroe for 18-21 year-old adults who were having a hard time transitioning into independent lives.
But due to a shortage of funding for young adult housing, Cocoon House is transforming to a teen shelter, providing a safe, temporary place that advocates say is badly needed for at-risk teens in the East County.
The change in the mission of the Cocoon House in Monroe came about in part because of a change of leadership at the organization, which provides an array of services to at-risk and homeless teens and their families throughout Snohomish County, said Jen Chwalibog, director of development and community relations with the organization.
“We recently got a new CEO and started looking at what our organization does,” she said. “We kind of looked at the whole system and how things were working, and there just wasn’t any funding anymore for 18 to 21-year-olds, and our mission is helping homeless and at-risk teens.”
At the time, Cocoon House had a teen shelter in Arlington. And Cocoon House was also interested in creating a maternity home for teen moms.
Since the bus system to the Arlington shelter is more complex than that to the Monroe shelter, it seemed to make more sense to have the teen shelter in Monroe and the more long-term maternity home in Arlington.
Beginning sometime this month, as many as eight teens in crisis will be able to stay at the Monroe home for up to two weeks or so while case managers work to either get them back with their families or into safe long-term homes.
“They maybe have run way last night, or maybe they were living on the streets,” said Chwalibog. “When getting them back home is not appropriate, we look at alternatives, extended family, friends, or even our transitional housing in Everett, where kids can stay until their 18th birthday.”
Sometimes kids have a blow-up with their families and just need a day or two to cool off and de-escalate the situation, she said. Sometimes they have been removed from an unsafe home by CPS. Sometimes they have been kicked out.
Whatever the case, parents have to give permission for their children to stay at Cocoon House. Often parents are glad to know that an angry child will at least be safe until things can be worked out, said Chwalibog.
Sometimes the most difficult teen to house is one who has been homeless for a while and has become accustomed to living without rules, she said.
But according to new Cocoon House CEO Cassie Franklin, the shelter staff will work with kids to make it easier for them to adjust to the facility so that they can achieve stability.
“Our goal is to lower the barriers so that they are very youth-friendly,” she said. “We want to get the kids into safe housing right away, so we are trying to make it as easy as possible for them to be successful.”
To that end the staff will have discretionary power to be flexible enough to accommodate kids so that they will be more likely to stay at Cocoon House than turn to the streets or other undesirable alternatives.
Cocoon House advocates want to work with the Monroe School District and other districts, said Franklin.
“We get a lot of referrals from the schools and we want to have a very good relationship with the schools,” she said.
The repurposed shelter will provide an important function for the East County, where police have reported to Cocoon House that displaced teens are rising in numbers, and that rural kids face more challenges accessing services than do their more urban counterparts, Franklin said.
“Having a shelter in Monroe start providing emergency services is a first step in the right direction,” she said.
Take the Next Step, a resource center for Sky Valley people in crisis, can also refer teens to Cocoon House, and any teen needing a safe place to go can contact the Everett office at (800) 259-6042 or email email@example.com. For more information, see www.cocoonhouse.org.