Imagine a mother who laces some food in the refrigerator with rat poison so that her children take a gamble with their lives any time they need to eat in their own home.
Or a stepfather who left a boy out under a tree with a loaf of bread and a gallon of water because he didn’t want him messing with the house while he was gone.
“These things are happening in Clark County,” said Laura Fleming-Balmer, CEO of Clark County Youth Shelter.
These are just two examples of the many that compel children to seek out Safe Place, a program that helps youth in crisis.
Clark County Youth Shelter, which operates the Safe Place Program, is celebrating National Safe Place Week starting Monday, March 17, to spread awareness of the program and its community partners. Anyone is invited to an open house at the shelter from noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday to hear a proclamation by Mayor Mike Moore, eat cake donated by Adrienne and Co. Bakery and Cafe and get a tour of the shelter.
The Safe Place Program provides youth with a place to stay and tools to handle their crises before returning to their homes. Most of these youth, ranging from infants to 21, don’t have stable adult role models to guide them.
“For the youth, [Safe Place] is an option other than running away,” said Dalevina Lawson, Safe Place coordinator for Clark County Youth Shelter. “They have somewhere they can go and ask help.”
Lawson said Safe Place defines a crisis as “any reason that [youth] feel like they’re not safe, or they’re not going to be safe,” which can range from getting a bad grade on a test and being afraid of telling a parent, to serious abuse or neglect— the latter of which makes up 85 percent of Clark and Floyd county Safe Places crises.
“We don’t question the crisis,” Fleming-Balmer, said. “If they perceive something as a crisis, it is a crisis.”
In cases of abuse, Safe Place employees are obligated to contact the Department of Child Services.
Since its opening in 1987, Safe Place has helped 707 youth in Clark and Floyd counties.
“Safe Place is a safety net for the entire community,” Fleming-Balmer said. “If the help is needed, we are here; we are there to protect them and to get them the help that they need.”