The Raleigh Fire Department is helping the community also in a less visible way. The department’s 28 fire stations serve as dedicated Safe Place sites for young people who are having problems at home, experiencing abuse or neglect, being bullied or who just need to talk to someone. When youth visit the local fire station seeking assistance, firefighters attempt to comfort them while contacting a Safe Place volunteer.
“Our stations have firefighters on-site to assist individuals who may be in a crisis situation and to connect them to helpful resources,” summarizes Assistant Fire Chief Danny Poole.
What Is Safe Place Program?
Safe Place is a national outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. More than 22,000 locations across the U.S. display the yellow-and-black Safe Place sign, the universal symbol of help and safety for young people.
How Does the Program Work?
- Young person enters a Safe Place location, such as a fire station, and asks for help.
- Site employee finds a comfortable place for the youth to wait while they call the local Safe Place licensed agency.
- Within 30 minutes or less, an agency representative will arrive to talk with the youth and, if necessary, provide transportation to a shelter for counseling, support, a place to stay and/or other resources.
- Once at the Safe Place agency, counselors meet with the youth and provide support. Agency staff makes sure the youth and their families receive the help and professional services they need.
Youth in need can text the word “SAFE” and their location (address, city and state) to 4HELP (44357) for information about local licensed Safe Place agencies and other youth services or resources. The service is designed to help young people aged 10 - 17.
Fire Stations Serve as Safe Place Sites
The first Raleigh Fire Department station that served as a Safe Place site was Station 5. It was dedicated as such in the 1980s by Raleigh Mayor Avery Upchurch, according to Chief Poole.
The Raleigh Fire Department cooperates with Haven House Services that focuses on helping youth overcome challenges and find a path to success. Its Wrenn House, on Morgan Street in downtown Raleigh, is the only homeless, runaway and crisis intervention program and shelter for youth in the Triangle.
Fire stations are logical places to serve as Safe Place sites. “Most people trust firefighters and know they can turn to us for help,” Poole says. “Many young people grow up trusting firefighters and that positive impression stays with them. I also believe firefighters have a lot of compassion and a good understanding of the human nature, partially due to the many things we see in our work, and we are a good fit to serve in this role.”