By Elaine Springer
As the conversations around youth and mental health, bullying, drug abuse, and sexual abuse escalate, it is realized there may be a need for a place for youth to go when school isn’t in session, and they need assistance with problems at home, bullying, or other forms of abuse. Or, if they are hot and tired and feeling overwhelmed and just need to sit for a bit. The reasons why someone might need help could be numerous.
While Safe Spot/Place programs have existed regionally and across the United States for some time, especially in larger municipalities, locally the only known Safe Spot program is in Candor. Until now. Soon Trumansburg will be implementing a Safe Spot program. This is a pared down and simplified version of the National Safe Place program, which has been running since 1983 and began in a YMCA teen shelter in Louisville, KY.
Although Trumansburg is generally considered relatively issue free, new Mayor Rordan Hart presented the Safe Spot idea to Village Trustee Keith Hannon, who has spearheaded the research and implementation of the program. Hart says, “I asked Keith to spearhead the initiative and loop in the Chamber in the effort. The idea originally came to me last spring courtesy of Tammy Morse, who sent me a picture of a sign in Candor where they have put the program in place. I thought it was a good idea – particularly with a school and two senior housing developments within Village limits, as well as just a high overall amount of foot traffic in our walkable community – to have designated areas for people to go if they are ever feeling unsafe or in need of some help while out in public.” In a presentation presented to the village board, it is stated that “By clearly marking and marketing specific locations, a person will feel encouraged and comfortable to step inside to find needed support. The Village is proud that our community generally feels safe and secure, but we also recognize there are unfortunate situations that can arise and to date, there have not been any officially recognized locations of comfort for those feeling trapped in a vulnerable position.”
So, the question becomes, ‘how does this work?’ Hannon explained, “Businesses will be presented with a sign for their storefront and a sheet of standard operating procedures, including how to approach someone who has entered the store to utilize the safe spot, who to call for help, and how to be of comfort while the person awaits the arrival of authorities.”
Gathering the information for standard operating procedures for contacting the authorities or other appropriate organization for assistance has perhaps been the biggest challenge in setting up the Safe Spot program. It’s hard to imagine what types of scenarios business owners and their employees will face, and it is important to organizers to ensure participants are prepared to help in various scenarios which could range from a child simply needing a glass of water and a break to someone being in immediate danger and needing to call 911. It is important to note that business owners and their employees are not expected or encouraged to be counselors to those utilizing the Safe Spot. They are simply there to be calm and assisting those in need.
It is also important to note that the Safe Spots are not child drop off centers, and are not for youth alone. Anyone in need of assistance should utilize the Safe Spot program. At this point, local businesses that have agreed to participate include Atlas Bowl, Gimme! Coffee, Good to Go! Trumansburg Market, Synergy Physical Therapy, and the Village office. It is the hope that other local businesses will participate, which would theoretically increase any one person’s comfort level in seeking assistance when in a time of need. Perhaps the most notable location would be the Byrne Dairy, which is Trumansburg’s only business open 24-hours a day. Once the program launches, as soon as Sept. 24, the Trumansburg Area Chamber of Commerce will take on the task of recruiting other local businesses along Main Street and beyond.
This is another smart collaboration project in Trumansburg, specifically between Village officials and law enforcement, the school district, and the Trumansburg Area Chamber of Commerce and local businesses. According to the National Safe Place website, these programs benefit communities because, “Youth can access help before their situation becomes a crisis, Safe Place provides opportunities for unique partnerships and collaborations between businesses and social service entities (it casts) a broad safety net for youth, provides a way for children and teens to access help when and where they need it and sends a powerful message that young people are valued.”
To learn more about the National Safe Place visit their website, nationalsafeplace.org. To see the slideshow about the Trumansburg Safe Spot program, visit the Village website, trumansburg-ny.gov.
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