GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Yellow signs mark dozens of new Safe Place sites on campus at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
The signs are placed at the UNCG Police Department, the middle college campus and all 20 UNCG Chariot buses.
“They bring a sense of safety to the campus,” Youth Focus Supportive Housing Program Director Sarah Roethlinger said.
The Safe Place sites let youth in crisis know they can go into those places and ask for help.
Roethlinger explained that college campuses can allow teenagers who may need help to hide in plain sight. They often appear to be students, sometimes sleeping in common areas or the library, which is something UNCG police officers have observed.
“They really didn’t have anywhere to go and trying to get them somewhere to go was a hard task,” Sergeant Alphonso Joyner said.
Joyner was behind the effort to bring so many sites to campus. He says this streamlines the process to get minors the resources they need.
“I have children myself, and I know how important my kids are to me,” he said.
Several training sessions were held for faculty and staff at UNCG to let them know what to do if anyone comes to ask for assistance.
Staff members are instructed to contact Act Together Crisis Care, and someone will arrive within 30 minutes to help.
“They’ll do the work of assessing what’s going on with that person, what do they need to keep them safe, and they take them back to Act Together, the youth crisis shelter in Guilford County,” Roethlinger said.
A point in time count showed that there were 93 children under the age of 17 experiencing homelessness in 2019 in Guilford County.
Roethlinger said that based on the number of teenagers they help, she believes the number to be significantly higher.
Advocates hope the signage will also spread the word about available resources.
“Maybe if that youth isn’t ready in that moment to seek help, they might be ready a week from now, a couple months from now, six months from now, and we’ll be there for them whenever they’re ready to get help,” said Esther Ngo, Act Together’s program manager.