L-R: Safe Place Coordinator Tracy Arp, Commissioner Steve Taylor, Advocates for Children President & CEO Rachel Castillo

Press Release:

The Advocates for Children organization and its Safe Place program are honoring National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM), by meeting with Commissioner Steve Taylor to sign an official proclamation naming November 30th, 2018 as Runaway Prevention Day in Bartow County. The purpose is to raise awareness on issues faced by runaway and homeless youth (RHY) in our community. Tracy Arp, Advocates’ Safe Place Coordinator, says “It is our hope to educate Bartow County and surrounding areas in North Georgia about solutions that help prevent youth from running away and experiencing homelessness.” Arp added clarification on what it means to be homeless by saying “Our programs define a homeless youth as unaccompanied minors ages 5-17 who are without family support and who are living in shelters, on the streets, in cars or vacant buildings, or who are ‘coach surfing’ or living in other unstable circumstances.”
National Runaway Prevention Month is an annual campaign during the month of November intended to bring awareness to the issues faced by runaway and homeless youth. This year’s theme for NRPM is “Shine a Light,” to not only shine a light on the issues RHY face every day but to also shine a light on the resources available to support youth in crisis and those experiencing homelessness. NRPM aims to highlight the work of runaway and homeless youth programs, such as the Advocates’ Safe Place and Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter, and how these programs and services are supporting RHY in local communities. By highlighting the importance of these resources and how youth can access these services, we can create a stronger safety net for at-risk and homeless youth. If you
see the Gold Dome Courthouse colored blue through the weekend, know this is a physical representation of this year’s theme.
Advocates for Children added Safe Place to their program roster in 2002 and currently supports over 65 sites here in Bartow County. Safe Place is a national program that serves as the first step in helping any youth in crisis or at risk. This community collaboration is operated in Bartow County and surrounding areas to make it possible for kids to access help at locations throughout our community, including public safety buildings, schools, libraries, restaurants, churches, gas stations, and other local businesses. Sites are identified by displaying the vibrant yellow and black Safe Place sign. The initiative connects youth to immediate help and support services if they feel as if they are in danger. Runaways, homelessness, and being commercially exploited are all reasons for a youth to need the help Safe Place provides.
There is a positive return on investment for those willing to invest in ending youth homelessness. Helping a young person before they turn to a lifetime on the streets saves our community money in social programs, medical expenses, law enforcement, and other costs. According to National Runaway Safeline, homeless youth are at high risk for involvement in the criminal justice system. Homeless youth who have been physically abused are almost twice as likely to be incarcerated compared to homeless youth without a history of physical abuse. Runaway and homeless children are also vulnerable to being commercially exploited and trafficked both because of their young age and their unsupervised circumstances. Expanding access to and awareness of emergency housing options, such as Advocates’ Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter, can reduce the risk that runaway and homeless youth will be victims of such experiences.
Arp says “We are eager to expand our outreach program with the purpose of raising awareness throughout our community in hopes of further helping runaway and homeless youths. We have educated over 2,700 school-aged children and 1,000 adults, to date, on the Safe Place program and how to reduce the risk of youth homelessness.”
To find more information about the Safe Place program in your area and how you can contribute, visit nationalsafeplace.org or contact Tracy Arp at (770)382-6180.