Heights Libraries designated a 'Safe Place' for kids in crisis
The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System is now a designated Safe Place for youths in crisis. Each library branch will display the yellow-and-black Safe Place sign, which signifies immediate help and safety for young people.
“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,” said 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,” said McHenry. “The library is already a safe place for kids, so this Safe Space training and designation just makes it official.”
It is estimated that, nationally, more than over one million youths run away from home each year 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.
Young people can approach any Heights Libraries staff member and ask for help. Library staff will find a quiet, private spot for the teen or child, while a designated staff person contacts a Safe Place representative at Bellefaire who will come to the library to provide assistance. Library staff will not be expected to provide any social services.
Heights Libraries is the newest Safe Place location 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,” said Nancy Levin, Heights Libraries director. “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, children and teens can also access immediate help via TXT 4 HELP, a text-for-support service for youths in crisis. They 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.
Sheryl Banks is the marketing and community relations manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.