I Need a Safe Place. Where Can I Go?
For many youth, school is a safe place for them and when school is no longer in session, those same youth often think about running away. June is also Safety Month so here are options of safe places for youth to go to or contact if they do run away.
National Safe Place
National Safe Place started in 1983 in Louisville, KY as Project Safe Place and in 2013, merged with the Youth & Family Services Network to create the National Safe Place Network.
Safe Place is community-based with local businesses and organizations. Partners include fire stations or libraries, designated as “safe places” for a youth to go. When a youth goes into one of the designated businesses or organizations, they talk with an employee to let them know what they need. The employee then contacts the local agency. Someone from that agency comes to talk with the youth about what options may be available. This includes shelter and transportation if necessary.
What Happens at a Safe Place
If a youth does decide to go to a youth shelter, the shelter is required to contact the parents or legal guardians. A youth under 17 is still considered a minor. They need consent from a guardian to stay in a shelter.
One other thing is that shelter workers are considered mandated reporters. If a youth tells them about abuse in the home, the shelter will be required to report to Child Protective Services. In 2009, Safe Place launched TXT 4 HELP which provides a youth with immediate access to resources; the youth texts SAFE along with their location to 69866 and receives a text back with the nearest shelter location. If there is no shelter within 50 miles, the text will contain the number for the National Runaway Safeline.
If there isn’t a Safe Place near a youth or if the youth isn’t comfortable involving a social service agency, there may be some informal options. However, there is a small risk involved with that. If a youth does go to a friend, family member or other trusted adult and their parents contact the police, the person they are staying with could get into trouble (running away is a status offense, which means a youth can’t do it).
A person considering running away can contact the National Runaway Safeline. There are people answering calls/chats/emails 24 hours a day that will listen and discuss options. The crisis services team can help find resources, such as; a shelter. They can make conference calls to an agency or shelter to help explain what the process would look like.
The hotline number is 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929); we are here to listen, here to help. NRS can also be reached at 1800RUNAWAY.org or text to 66008.