LAS VEGAS, March 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Each year, nearly three million youths run away from home, putting themselves at a high risk of drug addiction, prostitution, disease and mental illness. In honor of National Safe Place Week, National Safe Place (NSP) is launching a week-long "Don't Get Boxed In: Text-4-Help: 69866" campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with teen homelessness and the services available in Las Vegas and across the country to youth in crisis.
To view a short video illustrating the shocking statistics around teen homelessness, click http://www.youtube.com/user/nationalsafeplace.
"There are a number of factors which lead youth to life on the streets; many involve physical and sexual abuse at home, neglect, parental drug or alcohol use, or lack of emotional and financial support from parents and families," said Kathleen Boutin, founder of The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY), the local Safe Place affiliate. "By providing teens with access to resources, social services, and shelters, NPHY and National Safe Place are helping to prevent youths from experiencing the dismal realities of life on the street."
The "Don't Get Boxed In" campaign launched today at a news conference at the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada Administrative Offices in front of giant cardboard boxes branded with shocking statistics about teen homelessness, NSP "Txt 4 Help: 69866" information, and cutting-edge QR coding, which allows smart phone users to download information directly to their phone by simply photographing the code. Following the news conference, the boxes will be taken to the Clark County Government Center where they will remain throughout the week.
"Homelessness among teenagers has become a grave issue in southern Nevada, and the economic downturn has only intensified the problem," said Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commissioner. "On any given day there are an estimated 383 unaccompanied minors living on the streets of Clark County alone. That is unacceptable."
The cardboard boxes are intended to be a stark reminder to passers-by of what can happen to at-risk teens who have troubles at home and feel they have nowhere else to turn for help. NSP wants to remind all adults and teens who may know of a teen in trouble that there is a safe place to turn – National Safe Place.
According to a 2009 report by the National Center on Family Homelessness about 10,434 children are homeless in Nevada. In early 2009, 5,020 homeless children were enrolled at schools in the Clark County School District. Many of these youth become homeless after being forced to leave their homes due to family problems, including parental substance abuse and neglect. Over 50% report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and did not care because they simply cannot, or will not, care for their basic needs. Many also lack the skills to lead healthy, productive, and independent lives, which make this vulnerable population susceptible to gang involvement, substance abuse, and sexual exploitation.
In January 2002, NPHY partnered with Terrible Herbst Oil Company to bring the National Safe Place program to Southern Nevada. For the first time runaway and repudiated teens in the Las Vegas community were provided with an emergency "sanctuary." With more than 100 convenience stores in Clark County, Terrible Herbst was the perfect community partner to ensure runaway and abused teens had immediate access to help. Once a youth arrives a crisis responder is called to assist the youth with his or her immediate basic needs such as food, water, medical care, weather appropriate clothing, and transportation to an emergency shelter. Safe Place is now available 24 hours a day, seven days of the week in Clark County by expanding its partnership to include all CAT buses (Citizens Transit Authority via Regional Transportation Commission), and all City of Las Vegas fire stations. Collectively there are now more than 300 Safe Place sites in Clark County.
"The mission of National Safe Place is to provide immediate assistance and resources to young people in crisis, so they don't end up on the streets," said Sandy Bowen, NSP Executive Director. "Despite the success of the 'Txt 4 Help' program, many teens are still in need of a safe place. National Safe Place Week gives us an opportunity to remind teens that if they are ever in trouble there are people who can help."
The "Don't Get Boxed In: Text-4-Help: 69866" campaign coincides with National Safe Place Week (March 15-20), which the United States Senate has supported for the past twelve years. National Safe Place Week is part of the innovative Safe Place program, which brings businesses and volunteers together to provide help and safety to children and teens facing abuse, neglect or serious family problems.
Last fall, NSP successfully launched the NSP "Txt 4 Help" program, a 24-hour text-for-support service for youth in crisis. By texting the word SAFE and their current location to the number 69866, those in need of assistance will receive an address of the nearest Safe Place location and contact number for the local youth shelter. In cities that don't have a Safe Place program, the youth receive the name and number of the youth shelter or, if there is no local shelter, a national-hotline number. Since the October 2009 launch, the "Txt 4 Help" service has been accessed nearly 10,000 times, an average of 2,500 times per month.
In conjunction with National Safe Place week, the NPHY will kick off its Safe Place Sign Sale on March 15, 2010. The Safe Place Sign Sale is a six-week fundraising campaign at all Terrible Herbst Convenience Stores in Southern Nevada. Donations start at $1 and range up to $10,000. In exchange for each donation donors will receive a Safe Place sign with their name to post at Terrible Herbst.
"The Safe Place Sign Sale has raised more than fifty thousand dollars in past years to help Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth's programs and services," said Tim Herbst, vice-president of Terrible Herbst Corporation. "Since we started the local Safe Place program in 2003, our cashiers have assisted more than 300 youth who needed immediate help."
About National Safe Place
National Safe Place (NSP), headquartered in Louisville, Ky., provides training and technical assistance for youth service agencies and businesses interested in developing a Safe Place program. Safe Place sites provide access to immediate help and safety for all young people in crisis. A public-private network of more than 17,000 sites across the country extends the doors of local youth shelters by displaying the Safe Place sign. Business partners and community locations that appeal to youth – such as fast food restaurants, convenience stores, fire stations, public buses and libraries – connect kids looking for help with the youth service agency. In 2009, 7,289 youth received immediate help at a Safe Place site. Another 6,710 youth contacted a Safe Place site or shelter for help after learning about the program through school and community education. The Safe Place program was created by the YMCA of Greater Louisville in 1983. For additional information, visit www.nationalsafeplace.org.
About The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth
The NPHY started in 2000 when a group of concerned community members formed a coalition to address the needs of displaced youth in the Las Vegas valley. The organization's mission was, and continues today, to eliminate homelessness among Nevada's youth. Since then, the Partnership has helped more than 5,000 youth receive services by opening Nevada's first full-service Drop-In Center for runaway and homeless youth, bringing the National Safe Place Program to southern Nevada, and creating a 16-bed, scattered site transitional housing program for homeless youth who work or attend school full-time. NPHY is also credited with the creation of the "Right to Shelter Law" (NRS 432B.220), State of Nevada legislation which allows local shelters to provide necessary services to runaway and homeless youth without parental consent. For additional information, visit http://www.nevadahomelessyouth.org.
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