The yellow signs are posted across Glynn County, in windows and on buildings. The diamond-shaped sign, which reads “Safe Place,” designates a location where a youth in crisis can come for help. Inside, there will be a trained person who can get them in touch with an emergency shelter.
The Safe Place program in Glynn County is coordinated through Safe Harbor Children’s Center and serves as outreach for Zach’s Place, an emergency shelter for local youth in crisis.
This week, the local program is joining in a nationwide celebration of National Safe Place Week, to bring attention to this important service in the community. Cornell Harvey, mayor of Brunswick, read a proclamation Monday at Zach’s Place to kick off the week.
Rashida Bridges, the local Safe Place coordinator, will be hustling between schools and after-school programs throughout the rest of the week, educating students about the Safe Place program.
Youth in need of assistance can text 4HELP (44357) to reach the nationwide, 24-hour text-for-support service. They will be directed by Safe Place program workers to the nearest Safe Place location.
“They ask for their street address, they ask for the city, they ask for the zip code,” Bridges said. “… That way, wherever they’re at, they’ll give them a Safe Place site they can go to.”
Safe Place locations in Glynn County include schools, school buses, libraries, certain stores and more. There are more than 85 physical “Safe Place” locations in Glynn County.
“This week is important just because it raises awareness,” said Leslie Hartman, executive director of Safe Harbor Children’s Center. “… It raises awareness about children that are in need that may need to go to a Safe Place site.”
Last year, 59 children stayed in Zach’s Place, Hartman said, and half of those were ages 12 and younger. Not all of those children came to Zach’s Place through the Safe Place program. Many, though, were homeless, Hartman said.
“There’s not a family shelter, so the parents had to choose to separate from their children due to being homeless,” she said.
Other youth seek out Safe Place locations because they do not feel safe returning home, Bridges said. And many will remember hearing presentations in school about the program and will text the emergency number when they need help.
“You may not know what the situation may be,” Bridges said. “It may be physical, mental, emotional — you don’t know what’s going on. But, we will try to work on that situation as soon as they enter. It’s a voluntary program, and as soon as they enter we start working on their case plan right then and there. That way they can go somewhere they’re safe.”
A great network of businesses and organizations take part in the program locally, Hartman said, providing youth in crisis with resources. The trained Safe Place partners will help a child get in touch with Safe Harbor workers. Zach’s Place is an emergency shelter for ages birth to 17 who are homeless or who have run away and are not in anyone’s custody.
“National Safe Place Week is just the week that we actually raise awareness in all the communities across the whole nation,” Hartman said.