Facing crisis? Safe Place provides refuge

Safe Place shelters provide refuge for youth facing crisis throughout Shelby County. (File)

Safe Place shelters provide refuge for youth facing crisis throughout Shelby County. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

For youth facing crisis in Shelby County and the Birmingham metro area, the yellow “Safe Place” signs at dozens of locations throughout the area represent much more than just a piece of metal. They represent hope.

“I feel really good about all of our Safe Places,” Shelby County Safe Place Coordinator Laura Junkins said. “The community is so supportive.”

More than 40 locations in nearly every community in Shelby County have agreed to serve as Safe Place shelters. Through the program, teens facing crisis situations, such as bullying, abuse at home or other dangerous situations can travel to a local Safe Place shelter to find immediate safety, Junkins said.

“They can text the word ‘Safe’ and their current location to 69866, and it will respond with the nearest Safe Place location,” Junkins said. “We have visited all of the Safe Place locations and trained them to deal with crisis situations.”

During the week of March 16-22, Family Connection in Alabaster, which operates the Shelby County Safe Place program, will observe National Safe Place Week. Throughout the week, Junkins said Family Connection is looking to make local youth more aware of the program.

This year, Junkins said several Shelby County and Alabaster schools have agreed to air promotional Safe Place videos during their morning news shows. The videos will present several crisis situations, and will demonstrate ways to safely deal with them, Junkins said.

“Our schools have been out six-and-a-half days for school for snow already this year, so if we can show this through the broadcast programs, it doesn’t take them out of class for anything extra,” Junkins said. “It’s a really great program for kids to know about. Mainly, we are just trying to get the word out.”

To learn more about Family Connection’s Safe Place program, visit Familyconnection-inc.org and click the “Project Safe Place” link on the “Our Services” tab.