Thursday, October 15, 2009

National Safe Place Launches New Safety Program 'Txt 4 Help' to Get Immediate Help to Youth in Crisis

/PRNewswire/ -- National Safe Place (NSP) is launching the "Txt 4 Help" program, a 24-hour text-for-support service for youth in crisis. The "Txt 4 Help" program, announced today at a news conference in Washington D.C. hosted by Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., will make getting help for teens easier. Youth in crisis can text the word SAFE and their current location to the number 69866, (e.g. safe 101 main St., Chicago IL), and they will receive an address for the closest Safe Place site and contact number for a local youth shelter. In cities that don't yet have a Safe Place program, the youth will receive the name and number of a youth shelter. If there is not a Safe Place program or youth shelter, the youth will receive the number for the national hotline. The text service will be available across the U.S. on Oct. 15.

The new "Txt 4 Help" program has the ability to reach even more youth in crisis than NSP has reached by traditional means. Almost 90 percent of teens have regular access to a mobile phone, and 66 percent of those teens prefer text-messaging to calling. NSP believes the "Txt 4 Help" program will change lives.

"We strongly believe that by communicating to youth in a way that they're comfortable with, we will reach thousands more youth needing help than we have in the past," said Linda Rutherford, chair of the National Safe Place board of directors. "We are hopeful that this program will encourage teens to ask for help and discourage them from running away."

Jasmine Williams, an 18-year-old homeless youth demonstrated how "Txt 4 Help" works at today's event. Williams came from an abusive household and currently resides at Sasha Bruce Youthwork, one of the largest youth service providers in Washington, D.C.

"Jasmine understands the value of Safe Place locations where kids can get help," said Sandy Bowen, executive director of National Safe Place. "She is moving away from the negative experience that once shaped her life towards a more positive future and because of this, she was so thrilled to share this information with other teens so they can get the help they need in a crisis when they need it - easily and quickly."

Each year an estimated two million youth run away. Most young people do not run away to experience additional freedoms, but rather are running away from a problem that they cannot solve, according to Department of Justice statistics from 2006. A Department of Justice study from 2002 indicates that 21 percent of runaway youth had been either physically or sexually abused within their homes within the year prior to their leaving.

Safe Place was created as a community collaboration that provides easy access to help for young people in dangerous, threatening or vulnerable situations. There are close to 17,000 designated businesses and community buildings displaying the Safe Place sign nationwide.

Since 1983, more than 240,000 youth have accessed help at a Safe Place site, or contacted their local youth shelter after learning about Safe Place at a school presentation.

Each year the U.S. Senate designates the third week of March as National Safe Place Week, recognizing the thousands of businesses, schools, fire departments, law enforcement and volunteers who work to keep communities safer for young people.

"It's hard to find a kid today who isn't constantly keeping in touch with their friends and family through text messages. The Txt 4 Help initiative is an innovative project that harnesses the popularity and power of texting to give kids instant access to assistance when they need it most," said Congressman Yarmuth. "National Safe Place continues to make Louisville proud by developing new ways to help young people in crisis."

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