SAFE Closet at Yucaipa High provides more than clothes to students in need

Tulsi Patel, left, organizes clothing at SAFE Closet. Above, Linda Witham, Patel, Janette McKovich and YHS students stop to smile.

The SAFE Closet, in Yucaipa, is a student assistance and financial emporium.

“It has been created to serve our homeless and underprivileged students in Yucaipa and Calimesa. It’s open to any students, although we are concentrating on the teens. The only requirement is that you must be a student and you must meet with a counselor beforehand,” said Linda Witham, with Yucaipa Rotary.

“If someone from Beaumont would come in, they are perfectly welcome, but they must come through a counselor. We are not shutting any students out. We are on the Yucaipa High School campus and we do keep our students privacy,” Witham said.

The closet has even reached out to Crafton Hills College, but have yet to hear back.

“We have formed a relationship with Set Free, they have been very accommodating. If we don’t have a certain size, we give students a voucher from Set Free and Set Free helps them out,” said Witham.

“Les Schwab has offered to be a collection point for the safe closet. Rob (Manager) has been awesome for allowing the shop to be a donation point. He has also offered his parking lot any Sunday and said he would supply water and electricity. He is such a good guy, he’s a really good person,” Witham said.

“So many businesses around town have offered so much help. The Elks Lodge has procured a grant for us to stock our closet with their help. The Elks and Woman’s Club have offered to help work in the closet to assist when students are in the closet,” Witham said.

She said there is a great need in Yucaipa.

“Mary Winters came out to speak to the Interact Club, she gave a statistic last year on homeless students on our little school district, everyone was so shocked. One of our students took it to heart, Tulsi Patel, she didn’t say anything to anyone,” Witham said.

Patel prepared all the forms and worked hard to make it happen.

“The SAFE Closet movement makes me feel empowered because it feels as though I’m making a difference. It really changes my perspective on life and I have learned to appreciate things more,” said Patel.

The SAFE Closet is accepting appointments now and their first appointment is next week, which is when they’ll be open for business.

“Once we get going, appointments are made two or three days in advance. We do not take any walk-ins. But if it’s a real emergency, we’ll find someone to get there to assist in the closet,” said Witham.

“We will have toiletries and a small limited supply of back-pack foods. At some point in time we are hoping to talk to local restaurants to see if we can create a voucher system.”

As the funding progresses, SAFE is hoping to fund prom tickets, sport tickets and even yearbooks.

“We’re thrilled we have so many people who have jumped on board. We’re hoping in the near future to have the ability to move the SAFE Closet east (Beaumont and Banning),” Witham said.

To donate or for more information, call 747-5330.

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