Strengthening Families. Building Communities. Reducing Poverty.

Young People Find Help at a Safe Place

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Sandy* was brought to Catholic Charities in Winston-Salem one evening about 8:00 by a man who explained he found Sandy walking around in front to his house. b2ap3_thumbnail_2453092273_a9851362e7_o.jpgThankfully, several agency staff were still at the office closing up after a meeting.  Sandy told the man she had been living on the streets for a couple weeks. After a conversation with Sandy’s father, who refused to allow her to come home, the man brought Sandy to Catholic Charities. Sandy shared how she managed to continue to go to school, where she hid a blanket and a few possessions, how she got food, and how she charged her IPod and phone without notice. Agency staff quickly went to work to secure Sandy’s safety. After confirming that Sandy’s father would not allow her to return home, staff secured emergency shelter and initiated the process of helping Sandy attain a stable future.

According to the National Runaway Safeline, between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth in the United States run away from home each year. Some youth may be forced to leave their home rather than voluntarily running away. Youth run away or are forced to leave their home for many reasons including abuse, neglect, substance abuse, domestic violence, pregnancy, sexual orientation, family dysfunction, school issues, delinquency, or family economic problems. 

The Piedmont Triad Regional Office of Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte coordinates the National Safe Place Program in Forsyth County through a Federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Grant. As defined on their website (, “Safe Place is a national youth outreach program that educates young people about the dangers of running away or trying to resolve difficult, threatening situations on their own.” The Safe Place initiative involves the whole community by creating a network of Safe Place locations where youth can easily access immediate help wherever they are. Safe Place locations are dispersed throughout the community and can be identified by the yellow and black diamond-shaped Safe Place sign or decal on the building. Safe Place sites are located in schools, fire stations, city recreation centers, YMCAs, libraries, public transit, YWCA, grocery and convenience stores, and other appropriate public buildings.  The Safe Place site personnel are trained on how to appropriately provide help and to contact a 24-hour hotline that connects to Catholic Charities for assistance and guidance. Catholic Charities offers emergency respite care in licensed foster homes when shelter is needed and free youth and family counseling to address issues that led to the crisis.

Information about the Safe Place Program is distributed to young people during presentations at schools, YMCAs and YWCAs, and recreation centers.  Young people also hear about the Safe Place Program through word of mouth and social media.  

Safe Place Programs in other metropolitan areas are coordinated by local agencies in those communities. 

The Safe Place Program is a vital link in the safety net Catholic Charities provides to youth in crisis in the community.


By Becky Dubois,  Assistant Office Director
Piedmont Triad Office Director

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte © 2014