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OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS & VIEWS : Answering Calls for Help : Support: Hot lines--whether over drug abuse, sexuality or family relationships--can be the difference between coping and not for the desperate teen-ager.

September 30, 1993|BRIAN SINGER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Brian Singer, a senior at Fullerton Union High School, is a regular contributor to OC High.

In times of need, the telephone can be a teen-ager's best friend.

If they are feeling out of touch with parents or they are hesitant to even tell friends of their innermost problems, an impartial, caring voice on the other end of the phone can often help.

A wide variety of hot lines enable teen-agers to confidentially explain their problems and receive help in a protective atmosphere. Some of the many hot lines are for runaway youths, alcohol and drug abusers, abused children, overeaters and smokers.

The most all-purpose hot line for teens to receive specific referrals to the help they need is the California Youth Crisis Line at (800) 843-5200.

"A lot of times, kids don't have places to go or people to talk to," says Linda Wise, a counselor at the California Youth Authority. Hot lines are a good place to start for teen-agers--or parents--who are caught in a crisis, she says.

"Parents sometimes get in trouble with their parenting skills, and nobody knows how to fix the problems," Wise said. "People sometimes aren't willing to admit (problems) and ask for help in ways that are natural."

Jim Anderson, an IRS agent who volunteers his time to staff a hot line, says help lines often act as referral services. "If we can't help them, we can find someone who can help them," Anderson said.

Anderson said, for instance, that runaway youths can be directed to shelters in their area to get them off the streets. If asked, volunteers can also call a runaway's parents, although unless advised by the runaways, parents will not be told the whereabouts of their child.

Sharon Greenwood, coordinator of the Student Assistance Group at Fullerton Union High School, said hot lines and shelters can "get the kid off the streets and to a safe place. Also, they can re-establish contact with parents and not be forced to go home."

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Orange County has a variety of youth shelters where services range from a place to stay to counseling and classes.

The Casa de Bienvenidos Youth Shelter in Los Alamitos provides individual and family counseling to as many as 12 youths at a time. Clinic director Gary Zager said that although the shelter receives some federal funding, 80% of the money comes from United Way, private foundations and donations.

One of the county's unlucky shelters is the Odyssey Runaway Youth Shelter in Anaheim. Praised by local counselors as a safe haven for troubled youths, the shelter was forced to close in July because of a federal funding shortfall.

"We feel really bad about it," said Frank Scott, executive director of Western Youth Services, which operates many county shelters. "The agency does not have enough money to maintain" the shelter. Scott said he is hopeful the shelter will find a way to reopen in November, when the weather begins to cool.

"We were the oldest program providing services for runaway youth in Orange County. However, without the federal funding, we're not able to maintain the program," he said.

In addition to being a resource for runaways, hot lines provide guidance on a daily basis for teens facing many other kinds of problems.

Overeaters Anonymous has started programs in California geared specifically to teen-agers. By calling the information line, (714) 669-3000, teen-agers "can start dealing with (their eating disorder) early and not have to lose a lot of years of humiliation," says Kathy, a hot line worker who solved her eating disorder through Overeaters Anonymous.

Some teens are overwhelmed by the prospect of telling family and friends about their gay or lesbian sexual orientation. Support groups provide teen-agers the opportunity to discuss their feelings with fellow gays and lesbians.

"The support groups provide the opportunity to discuss issues that may come up, from suicide to dealing with other siblings and other family members," said George Neighbors of the National Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. The local chapter can be reached at (714) 997-8047.

Whatever the specific problem--whether it concerns sexuality, family relationships, violence or addictions--teens in Orange County can often find a start toward resolution by picking up the phone and asking for help.

Where to Find Help in Orange County

Here are some of the help lines serving teens in Orange County:

CALIFORNIA YOUTH CRISIS LINE

(800) 843-5200

24 hours

Staffed by California Child and Youth Family Coalition workers and volunteers. Will offer an ear to callers or provide referrals for local help and support on issues dealing with family problems, health, sexuality, food disorders, emotions, child care, shelters, drugs, alcohol, suicide and others. Runaways who are scared and have no money can call crisis line and be patched through to their parents.

YOUTH SERVICES ASSISTANCE

(714) 494-4311

24 hours

(714) 250-0488

Weekdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Referral service for all types of problems, from legal to health concerns. Sponsored by Community Services Program.

CALIFORNIA SELF-HELP CENTER

(800) 222-5465

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday

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