New Safe Place Program Allows Keiki to Notify Bus Drivers if They’re in Danger
The County of Hawaiʻi Mass Transit Agency, in partnership with the National Safe Place Network, is launching a Safe Place initiative to expand the safety net for youth in crisis on Hawaiʻi Island.
Safe Place programs offer a place to turn for many keiki who believe they have no other option, the county stated in a press release Tuesday, Aug. 16. Mass Transit has elected to partner with the network, NSPN, because Hawaiʻi Island does not have a complete operating Safe Place program. The partnership will help to bring resources and services to those in need.
The Safe Place transit model will allow for youth in need to reach out by boarding a Hele-On bus and asking the bus driver for a “Safe Place.” The bus driver will connect with dispatch, who will contact the appropriate resources or organizations to meet the youth in need to help them out of the crisis. With a community of more than 21,000 partner businesses across the country, Safe Place seeks to expand its reach through partnerships similar to its relationship with Hele-On.
“Our keiki need to know that our county staff, resources, and facilities are safe places they can turn to when they’re in need,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “We have an obligation as government to ensure the safety of our entire community – especially our keiki. It’s our hope that teachers, parents, and other members of our community will join us in informing youth across the island that this program exists if they find themselves in a situation where they need protection.”
NSPN offers partial on-island Safe Place services through the Safe Place transit model, where the resources for a complete program are not currently available. Mass Transit plans to partner with a non-profit organization to support the intent of the Safe Place program and has been in discussion with the Salvation Army.
“Unfortunately, in today’s world, young people face family problems, homelessness, bullying, neglect, abuse, and even human trafficking,” said Laurie Jackson, president, and CEO of NSPN. “Each year, the Safe Place and TXT 4 HELP programs directly impact the lives of more than 12,000 youth by providing access to immediate help and safety. TXT 4 HELP has offered real-time assistance to youth in crisis by responding to more than 117,000 incoming text messages since its inception in 2009.”
Safe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people under the age of 18 (up to 21 years of age in some communities) in need of immediate help and safety. As a collaborative community prevention initiative, Safe Place designates businesses and organizations as Safe Place locations, making help readily available to youth in communities across the country.
“This partnership is important to us because safety is a key part of our mission in our service to the keiki of our island, and we are dedicated to being a resource for those in need,” said John Andoh, Mass Transit Administrator & General Manager. “Providing a safe, secure haven for our vulnerable youth is something we feel called to do, and in joining forces with NSPN, we join more than 12,000 other transit/mobile locations nationally.”
The Hawaiʻi Youth Services Network has been instrumental in implementing the new Safe Spaces for Youth Pilot Project that was recently approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. David Ige, and the Mass Transit is excited to coordinate this new partnership with them, the department director said in a press release.
“Nearly half of Hawaiʻi’s juvenile arrests are for status offenses like running away from home or being truant from school. Since 2013, our youth have advocated for safe places where they can go before they get in trouble with the law. The Hele-On Safe Place Program will help our youth connect with the help that they and their families need.” stated Judith Clark, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Youth Services Network.
For Safe Place and Hele-On information, call (808) 961-8744 or visit http://www.heleonbus.org.