National Safe Place Network is pleased to announce March 15-21, 2015, as National Safe Place Week. The nationally-recognized week serves to increase awareness about the Safe Place program, which brings together businesses and volunteers to provide help and safety for youth facing abuse, neglect, bullying or serious family problems. 

“Unfortunately, young people face troubling issues in today’s world and it’s up to all of us to offer solutions, places where youth can go to get help,” said Laurie Jackson, president/CEO for National Safe Place Network. “National Safe Place Week is the perfect opportunity for communities across the country to assess and strengthen their safety net for youth.” 

It is estimated that more than 1 million youth run away from home each year due to abuse, neglect, family conflicts and other issues. The Safe Place program is an option for young people who feel they have nowhere to turn.

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Safe Place consists of a national network of nearly 20,000 partnering businesses and community locations – such as fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, fire stations, public buses and libraries – that display the Safe Place sign in their windows. As youth enter the designated Safe Places and ask for help, trained staff members connect them to the appropriate youth shelter for assistance. National Safe Place Week recognizes participating Safe Place locations and volunteers for their unwavering dedication to the safety and well being of at-risk youth.

The Safe Place program is operated locally by Community Access Unlimited, who partners with businesses and community organizations to provide help to youth in Union County. Safe Place sites are currently available at the Elizabeth Public Library, Hillside Fire Department, Jefferson Park Family Success Center and the Union County Runaway & Homeless Youth Shelter run by Community Access Unlimited. In these locations, staff members provide youth with immediate safety and access to supportive resources. 

“When a teenager comes in or is referred by one of our Safe Place sites, our first steps are to provide them a safe place of shelter, a meal, a shower and clothing,” said Julia Leftwich, director of the Runaway & Homeless Youth Shelter in Elizabeth. “Then we try to find out what went wrong with this youth and why they’re here. If they claim abuse we contact the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. If not, we notify the parents and try to get them in within 48 hours. We work with them to devise a plan to unify them with their child.”

The Safe Place program has helped more than 314,000 youth since its inception in 1983 and currently serves more than 1,400 communities across the country. It is managed by 133 youth agencies in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

National Safe Place Network also operates the TXT 4 HELP initiative, a 24/7 text-for-support service for youth in crisis. Teens can text the word “safe” and their current location (address/city/state) to 69866 and receive a message with the closest Safe Place location and the number for the local youth shelter. Users will also have the option to text interactively with a mental health professional for more help.

About National Safe Place Network

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) provides quality training and technical support for youth and family service organizations across the country. Along with being a leading membership organization offering tailored organizational development, training and professional development packages, NSPN also operates the nationally-recognized programs Safe Place, Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center (RHYTTAC) and Human Trafficking: Recognition, Respect, Response (HTR3). Safe Place is an outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. Nearly 20,000 businesses and community locations, such a fire stations, public transportation vehicles, convenience stores, and libraries, participate in the program to provide immediate help and safety for youth. To learn more, please visit www.nspnetwork.org or www.nationalsafeplace.org.

About CAU

Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 36th anniversary in 2015, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community.  CAU provides support and gives a voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society.  CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities.  CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil rights.  CAU serves more than 5,000 individuals each year.  For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908-354-3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.