Safe Harbor to Commemorate National Safe Place Week, March 20-26
When teens find themselves in crisis they should know how and where to get help. Thanks to Safe Harbor’s Safe Place program, immediate help is never too far away. Safe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people under the age of 18 in need of immediate help and safety.
You’ve probably seen yellow signs in the windows of police stations, fire stations, libraries, and local businesses. The yellow safe place signs are the universal symbol of youth safety, which means anyone under age 18 can go to a safe place day or night and get help when they feel they have nowhere else to go.
“For many youth, requesting help through Safe Place is their first step to access to services for themselves and their families. Safe Place is designed as an early prevention program so that youth, regardless of their needs, can be connected to services and help before problems escalate beyond control. The link to early intervention can be key to reducing the risk of running away and homelessness among youth and Safe Place is often the entry point to services for many youth and families,” said Dr. Sherzine McKenzie, Director of Safe Harbor’s Runaway and Homeless Emergency Shelter, Zach’s Place.
Unfortunately, young people face troubling issues in today’s world, such as abuse, neglect, bullying and serious family problems. These may lead young people to make difficult, and sometimes dangerous decisions to escape what it is they are going through. Oftentimes, youth need help and safety from an immediate threat from strangers and even friends. Riding with an unsafe or under-the-influence driver can be a very real danger. Being separated or stranded from friends in unfamiliar and possibly dangerous surroundings can lead to tragic outcomes. Safe Place can provide a safe way to get reconnected with loved ones, possibly preventing victimization and further injury.
“It is often scary and overwhelming to be a young teenager and feel like you have nowhere safe to turn to,” said Rashida Bridges, Safe Harbor’s Safe Place Coordinator. “When a youth sees the distinctive yellow diamond sign with black lettering saying ‘safe place’ and walks in to ask for help, trained staff at the Safe Place site are able to connect each youth to our resources here at Safe Harbor for further support.”
As a community initiative, the program designates schools, fire stations, libraries, and other youth-friendly organizations as Safe Place locations, creating a safety net for youth throughout Coastal Georgia. Since the program began in 2011, neighborhood partners and businesses have banded together to ensure that runway and homeless youth in our community get the help they need when in crisis.
“It takes a village” as the saying goes—and the program’s success depends on active participation from people in our community. We are honored to have expanded to more than 150 Safe Place locations throughout Coastal Georgia,” Bridges added. This means that young people can get connected to help immediately—be it on a school bus, at the library, a city park, a coffee shop, and local churches. This network of Safe Place sites is an extension of Safe Harbor Center’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Emergency Shelter, Zach’s Place.
Along with accessing Safe Place in person, youth may also TXT 4 HELP to receive information about the closest Safe Place location and chat with a professional for more help. TXT 4 HELP is a nationwide, 24-hour text-for-support service for youth in crisis.
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