You may not know what Safe Place is, but you've no doubt seen the distinctive yellow and black signs throughout the community. These signs let teens and youth know that they can receive immediate help at these locations. Safe Place provides a critical community safety net for these kids: nationally an estimated 1.6 to 2.8 million youth run away from home each year.*
Safe Place is a national program, which ACH provides locally. The program gives immediate help and safety to young people, under the age of 18, who are experiencing a crisis. As a Safe Place administrator, ACH partners with local businesses and community locations, like QT stores, to provide Safe Place sites that can be easily reached by youth, which makes it possible for youth to get help quickly at these locations. There are 241 Safe Place sites in Tarrant County as well as the T buses, which act as moving Safe Places. They transport youth to the nearest stationary Safe Place location.
"Safe Place is extremely important because it provides a way for youth in crisis to communicate to get help," says Lauren Sherry, public relations manager for QT and a member of the National Safe Place's board. "Sending out the information and message about Safe Place to all youth is important because whether they are going through a crisis, or know a friend in crisis, they need to know that there is help out there, and Safe Place provides either a location for that, or communication via the TXT 4 Help initiative."
TXT 4 Help is the easiest way for youth to find the nearest Safe Place since most have a cellphone, says ACH's Safe Place Coordinator, Angela Lewis.
With TXT 4 Help, any young adult who is struggling with a problem and needs immediate help can text "SAFE" (7233) to 69866, and within seconds, they'll receive the address of the closest Safe Place location and the number for the local youth shelter.
In 2016, ACH's Safe Place program helped 64 youth, and 93 percent of those came to the Pat O'Neal Youth Emergency Shelter.
Safe Place works because of community involvement. It tells local young adults that the community cares about them. So how can you help? Getting word out about Safe Place is important.
"If they have a trusted adult, it's a great inlet to offer services and guide youth in a positive direction," says Lewis.
Lewis offers Safe Place presentations to pre-teen, teen and adult audiences. If you're interested in a presentation or learning more, please contact Angela Lewis at 817.566.1625 or angela.lewis@ACHservices.org.
*Statistics from National Safe Place at nationalsafeplace.org.