Eliza Conley-Lepene demonstrates the phone app she created so people in crisis could quickly seek help. Recently the board of the nonprofit Safe House got together to celebrate the two year mark of the crisis app. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNK — When someone is in crisis, the last thing they need is to fumble through a long list of phone numbers to find help.

Now, the information can be at their fingertips. There’s a phone app for that — a free one — which directs the user to agencies, and their numbers, that can provide assistance for their specific concern.

There are numbers for domestic violence shelters and organizations, children’s resources, suicide prevention hotlines and much more.

Safe House began with creator Eliza Conley-Lepene when a professor in her university advocacy program told the class to take a problem and describe how to fix it.

The free Safe House app directs people to resources when in crisis. Tammy Wells Photo

And so, she did.

She recently got feedback hearing from an individual affiliated with someone who used the app. She learned it saved a life.


“Someone used the suicide button on the app,” said Conley-Lepene. “A mobile crisis team responded and (the person) got the help they needed.”

Conley-Lepene, 35, of Saco, who graduated from Thornton Academy and went on to earn a bachelor’s of science degree in justice, psychology and advocacy at the University of Maine Augusta, had been building websites since she was in middle school. She took her idea and set to work, finding an app generator so she could build a prototype, and went from there.

“I just couldn’t stop,” said Conley-Lepene, a licensed massage therapist who owns Spa Voyage in Kennebunk’s Lower Village. “I got more ideas and it got bigger. I created a nonprofit and a board of trustees.”

There is a personal component to all this. Conley-Lepene said she left a domestic violence situation in 2016. She noted it isn’t always possible for those in a violent home situation to dial 911, but points out the app can access that  number, and others,  discreetly.

So far, the Safe House app, which is expanding to other states like New Jersey and New York, with plans to go national, has had 3,000 downloads. It can be downloaded free at: www.safehousenational.org

A demonstration is available at: www.yoursaferplace.org, the website of the nonprofit Safe House organization.


Conley-Lepene and the rest of the Safe House board — Lauren Korthy, Dr. Kerry Bowman, Shayna Gervais and Karen Whitten — enter the information from other states, and update the Maine version. It is time consuming work, but she said it’s rewarding.

The mission is to get the free app on as many phones as possible, and, Conley-Lepene said, she’d love to work with police agencies, fire and emergency medical personnel, and others, as well as those who provide children’s services.

“I’d love to go to high schools,” and talk about the app, said Conley-Lepene, pointing out it could be beneficial to teens who might be tempted by the party scene, or students being bullied who might display a tendency to harm themselves.

“This is a resource if they’re put into a dangerous situation,” she said.

As well, Conley-Lepene is thinking ahead, and has set up safehouserecovery.org, which she described as a work in progress, but is intended to provide an array of resources to aid people in recovery from substance misuse.

Ultimately, Conley-Lepene is looking for easy availability of the app, and is approaching phone manufacturers.

“If this were a factory preset on everyone’s phone, they wouldn’t have to worry who to call, and where to go” for help, she said.

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