The Safe Place program, which offers safety to at-risk youth nationwide, is spreading awareness this week about its outreach services provided to youth in need of immediate help in communities across the country, including the Golden Isles.
Safe Harbor, which serves homeless, runaway and at-risk youth, is the local lead agency for the National Safe Place Network.
The local nonprofit commemorated National Safe Place Week on Wednesday with a proclamation read by Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey.
“The Safe Place program is committed to protecting the youth of Brunswick by offering short-term shelter and trained professionals ready to help in locations around the community,” Harvey said.
The Safe Place program serves youth who find themselves in crisis or in need of a place to stay, by offering immediate help from trained community members. The program is for young people under the age of 18, and up to 21 years old in some communities.
The program designates businesses and organizations as Safe Place locations. Locally, Safe Harbor offers 128 stationary sites and 170 mobile sites, which include the school buses in Glynn and Camden counties.
“It is often scary and overwhelming to be a young teenager and feel like you have nowhere safe to turn to,” said Leslie Hartman, executive director of Safe Harbor Center. “This network of Safe Place sites is an extension of our outreach to homeless and runaway youth.”
Safe Places are marked by signs in windows or on doors.
“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,” Hartman said.
When a young person enters a Safe Place location and asks for help, a site employee find a comfortable place for them to wait while Safe Harbor is called. Then, within 30 minutes, a Safe Harbor staff member will arrive to talk with the youth and provide transportation to the agency, if necessary.
Once at Safe Harbor, counselors meet with the youth and provide support. The staff will make sure the youth and their families receive the help and professional services they need.
Youth may also use TXT 4 HELP, a 24-hour text-for-support service, to receive information about the closest Safe Place location and chat with a professional for more help. Users can text the word “SAFE” and their current location to 44357.
“You’ve got to have a place to feel safe,” Harvey said. “I’m so glad it’s here, glad it’s in our neighborhood, glad it’s in our city.”