Safe Place: Someplace to Go...Someone to Help

National Safe Place (NSP) Week 2023 is ending, but the work toward a world where all youth are safe continues on. Licensed Safe Place® entities have worked especially hard this week to promote their respective Safe Place programs. It is heartening to check social media and see the different faces associated with organizations, sites, and volunteers who are so committed to ensuring young people have a safety net in their community. Young people are navigating a world where they may face homelessness, familial abuse, violence, bullying, and more obstacles that can be detrimental. Safe Place ensures that any obstacle, no matter how large, can be overcome with the help and support of others.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Safe Place program. The program began as part of the YMCA Shelter House in Louisville, KY in 1983. I did a quick Google search (something that was not around when Safe Place was started) to see what was popular in 1983. The final episode of M*A*S*H aired and was watched by 125 million people, Cabbage Patch Kids made their debut, and Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi premiered. Compare this to 2023 where the Super Bowl LVII became the third most watch show in television history with 113.1 million viewers – still far less than what the M*A*S*H finale commanded 40 years ago. Avatar: The Way of Water is the highest grossing movie of the year thus far, and toys like Squishmallows have overtaken the popularity of Cabbage Patch Kids. A lot can change in 40 years – and still more can remain the same.

As we move forward through the year and continue to celebrate the 40 years of youth safety that Safe Place has provided, it’s important to stop and take a moment to reflect on the state of youth safety today. While the most watched television shows, movies, and most beloved toys have all changed – young people are still facing a world that can be hostile to them at times. With the widespread use of internet, phones, and social media increasing since the introduction of Safe Place it’s important to recognize the threats they face may look different, or take place on different platforms, but they’re threats to their safety all the same. TXT 4 HELP is one addition to the Safe Place program that helps young people face a changing world and still provides them much needed connection to resources.

The work may evolve, providers may pivot services, and the unknowns will always persist but the shared belief in a world where all youth are safe will continue to fuel National Safe Place Network (NSPN) and other youth service providers to offer the Safe Place program. It’s a program that meets young people where they are, no matter the year. The black and yellow Safe Place sign is universally recognized as the symbol for youth safety. And young people will always have someplace to go…someone to help as long as there is Safe Place.

To round out NSP Week, I was curious to get some of NSPN staff’s thoughts on what Safe Place means to them. They are as follows:

“It takes so much more than shelter to help a youth feel and be safe. There are youth who do not feel safe simply being of who they are. When they look in the mirror the image reflected back to them is often filtered through a lens of self-doubt or uncertainty. Safe Place is a sign to help youth identify hope and to feel confident there are people who see them and value them. The sign represents community members who care. It shouldn’t take a sign on a building or a card in a wallet to ensure a youth knows someone is there and ready to listen. But it does. It is critical every youth knows there is somewhere to go and someone to help.” – Tammy L. Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer

“Safe Place offers kids a chance to take control of their lives where they may not otherwise have the chance. The designation of Safe Place sites out in the world signals to a young person that they are cared for by their community, and there is help if/when they need it. It’s a comfort in a world that can be so uncomfortable that there is always going to be Someplace to go…Someone to help when it’s needed. That is powerful.” – Autumn Sandlin-Moore, Operations and Communications Specialist

“We are a world where many societal and parenting norms still reflect that youth should be seen and not heard through how they are treated and related to.  A world where often times youth’s feelings are not valued and their voices are not given enough safe platforms with the undivided attention of caring adult audiences. For me, Safe Place is that environment filled with caring people who not only want to hear the voice of youth, but who listen intently with a view of compassion and safety for their hopes and desires.  Safe Place fosters a culture that develops healthy relationships for the well-being of youth and their families.” – Eric Tadatada, Program Advocate

“We live in a world where you lock your doors at night, teach your kids to not talk to strangers, and bullying (by adults and youth) is more prevalent than ever before. Our kids need something parents can count on to help our children if they are ever in crisis we can’t control – a safety net. That’s what Safe Place is to me – Someplace to go… Someone to help.” -Elizabeth Smith Miller, Director of Operations


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