HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County’s only youth crisis center — Sea Haven — added a local transportation group to its Safe Place Program.

The program provides immediate help and support to youth in crisis whenever they enter a Safe Place site. One of its newest partners is Coast RTA.

“The partnership with Coast RTA is obviously an amazing partnership that is very, very needed in our community today,” said Curtis Joe, executive director of Sea Haven. “So what that does is it adds that transportation piece to the kids that are in crisis.”

Youth can get on a Coast RTA bus for free, let the driver know they need assistance and be taken to a Safe Place site on the route. From there, the bus driver will call a supervisor.

“That supervisor will walk that child into that site, pick up the phone, give us a call and then great, now we have a great partnership, a great process in place to help the youth in need,” he said.

The people at each location are personally trained by Sea Haven staff to learn how to handle all Safe Place situations.

Sea Haven is working to make Myrtle Beach Police Department the next Safe Place Project partner.

“All we have to do this point to set up a training time to train the officers about Safe Place and Sea Haven,” he said.

To become a volunteer or register as a Safe Place, Sea Haven holds a “lunch and learn” program the third Wednesday of every month.

“We’re always in need of volunteers to come down and bring a meal for the kids, fellowship with the kids, come do some beautification projects, but more so come down and get to know Sea Haven,” Joe said.

The lunches are free to attend and last about an hour. Any person who comes also gets a tour of the campus and can decide how they want to be involved.

Joe said one of the best things about his job is he can advocate for young people. He grew up in and out of foster care and had run away from home as a kid. He uses his story to better advocate for the children.

“I can actually speak for them,” he said. “When you’re trained in this work the first thing they tell you is ‘Never tell the kid you know exactly what they’re talking about,’ and that is true, but it’s a little but different in my situation because I actually do know what they’re talking about.”

Sea Haven houses children ages 12 to 17 for up to 14 days. They can house eight boys and eight girls at a time. While at Sea Haven, children work with trained crisis counselors to create a plan to build their future and accomplish their dreams.

“Our job is to de-escalate and to process with that youth,” he said. “To help them get through that crisis, to help them get through that trigger and that outburst stage that they’re going through. They’re coming to us and either they’ve been abused, or they’ve been kicked out or again they’re switching foster homes for maybe the eighth time in their whole life and they’re only 13 years old.”

Joe said Sea Haven aims to change the narrative about youth in crisis and provide them with a different, more positive outlook on life.

“When they come here to Sea Haven its going to be a whole different vibe,” he said. “We’re going to love on them, were going to respect them first. Part of our mission statement states that we provide a safe place for youth in crisis, but we do that with respect and dignity.”

The staff asks youth in their care what their future goals are and works to make plans to achieve them.

“You may be 14 or 15 now, but you’ll always remember one of our crisis counselors telling you that you can do this and this is how you do it,” Joe said. “We’re not going to deny them, we’re not going to kill their dreams.”

Sea Haven also has other programs designed for teenagers making the transition to adulthood and family classes.

Joe said none of the work is possible without volunteers and donations.

“We need you as a community to come out and support these kids in their darkest hours,” he said. “You’ll be in for a treat once you get here.”