GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Kids and teens who need help or counseling can now visit just about any city-owned building or even hop on a bus to get help.
The City of Greensboro is expanding and strengthening the Safe Place program. Safe Place is operated by Youth Focus, a United Way Agency serving Guilford and Randolph Counties.
The Safe Place location on Huffine Mill Road in Greensboro is the only shelter specifically for adolescents in Guilford County, explained Safe Place Coordinator Hannah Labas.
"Kids can walk in if they have problems at home, with family, problems at school or even problems in the neighborhood," said Labas.
The shelter serves two to three hundred kids ages 11--17 every year. Many come after references from school or the police. About 30--40 kids actually approach a Safe Place location and ask for help each year. Cases range from abuse to bullying and loneliness.
"We want to make it as easy as possible for these children to seek help," added Labas. "Teenage years are hard enough. Let alone adding pressures at home or school."
She continued, "There are so many other avenues these kids can choose. Drugs or prostitution or getting in with the wrong crowd and criminal activity. We just want them to know there is a place where they can go and be safe."
Greensboro Fire Department stations have displayed Safe Place signs for more than 15 years. The yellow and black diamond reminds kids and teens they can come to that location and get a ride to the Safe Place shelter for free.
Now, all recreation centers, libraries, police stations and Greensboro Transit Authority buildings will act as Safe Places, too.
Stickers boasting Safe Place's new logo are also being attached to GTA city buses.
"We have more than 200 buses in our fleet and each one is going to bet outfitted with the new Safe Place logo," said Kevin Elwood, Information Specialist at GTA.
The buses will act as mobile Safe Place spots. Bus drivers are trained to contact their supervisor if they have a Safe Place rider; supervisors will meet the bus to pick up the child and give them a ride to the shelter for help.
Elwood explained, "If a child is in need and they don't know where to turn, but they see a bus coming down the street? They know that's an opportunity for them to escape that situation."
Safe Place shelter counselors help children and their guardians work through whatever problems prompted the child to seek help.
Labas is thrilled about their partnership with the city and GTA.
"Even if you're not within walking distance of a fire department or not near downtown, most neighborhoods do have access to a bus stop," Labas said.
They hope the new stationary and mobile Safe Place spots make getting help easier and quicker for kids in the area.
To see a full list of City Safe Place sites, visit www.greensboro-nc.gov/SafePlaceLocations