Heights Libraries is now a designated Safe Place for youth in crisis. Each library branch displays the yellow and black Safe Place sign, which signifies immediate help and safety for youth.
“Libraries are already great places for kids and teens, with programs and materials that cater to their interests and educational needs, and staff members trained to work them,” says Librarian Sara Phillips, the library’s Safe Place point person. “That’s why Karen McHenry, manager of Bellefaire JCB’s Homeless and Missing Youth Program, thought the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library would be a perfect candidate to become an official Safe Place for youth.”
“There are already lots of kids here,” says McHenry, “and the library is already a safe place for kids, so this Safe Space training and designation just makes it official.”
It is estimated over one million youth run away from home each year nation-wide 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. The Safe Place initiative, operated by Bellefaire JCB in Shaker Heights, is part of a national network of Safe Place programs in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 20,000 community businesses and organizations nationwide display the Safe Place sign, making help readily available for youth in need.
Each branch of Heights Libraries has a bright yellow “Safe Place” sign in a visible place so youth will know they can get help from staff inside. Youth can approach any staff member and ask for help. Library staff will find a quiet, private spot for teen or child to wait in while a designated staff person contacts a Safe Place representative at Bellefaire who will come to the library to provide assistance to the youth. Library staff will not be expected to provide any social services.
Heights Libraries is the newest location to become a Safe Place site in Cuyahoga County. Additional Safe Place locations include RTA buses and trains, Cleveland Public Library branches, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, and Bellefaire JCB.
“We are very proud to be an official partner of this crucial support service for our community’s kids,” says Heights Libraries Director Nancy Levin. “The Safe Place designation fits right in with our values that call on us to provide our customers with whatever assistance we can,”
In addition to Safe Place sites, youth may also access immediate help via TXT 4 HELP, a 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 also have the option to text interactively with a mental health professional for more help.