When you drive past certain businesses in the community, have you ever wondered what this sign means?
For the answer, I went to www.nationalsafeplace.org.
Safe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people in need of immediate help and safety. Nearly 20,000 community and business locations nationwide display the yellow and black Safe Place sign, making help readily available. Locations include libraries, YMCAs, fire stations, grocery stores, public buses, and social service facilities.
Why is this so important? Because many of our youth experience legitimate crisis situations, from severe problems at home like drug or alcohol abuse by family members, to physical abuse and neglect. Some kids are just simply told to leave their home and never come back.
Problems can occur at home, at school, while hanging out with peers or finding themselves in an unsafe situation while out on a date. That is where a Safe Place location comes in. Their sign serves as a notice to anyone under the age of 18 that they may enter, ask for help, and a responsible adult will immediately summon whatever assistance is needed to assist the youth.
Organizations wishing to participate in this national program first apply to the Safe Place representative office in their area. Then the organization is thoroughly vetted. Once that's complete, the facility is then visited by a Safe Place staff member to legitimize the location. Finally, special training in dealing with youth in crisis is administered to the staff of the facility being granted Safe Place status.
Once all prerequisites are met, the signage is put in place at a prominent location of the facility to be easily seen from the street front.
In addition, if a child in crisis can't get to a Safe Place location, National Safe Place launched the TXT 4 HELP initiative in 2009. This service provides youth immediate access to help and resources through texting. Youth can text the word "safe" and their current location (address/city/state) to 69866 and receive an immediate text response with the location of the closest Safe Place site or youth shelter and the youth shelter phone number.
If a site or shelter is not within a 50-mile range, the youth receives the number to the National Runaway Safeline (1-800-RUNAWAY). In 2012, National Safe Place added the option for live, interactive texting with a trained mental health professional. Youth can immediately connect with Master's-level mental health professionals by text.
Since 1983, this has been a way for the community to protect our youth in crisis. Become involved and contact the Charlotte area Safe Place headquarters, operated by The Relatives Youth Crisis Center, at (704) 377-0602 to begin the process of your organization becoming a Safe Place.