‘Safe Place’ gets fire stations

Fire stations in Columbus are the latest additions to a list of about a dozen local organizations willing to help teens in trouble.

Foundation For Youth began working with Family Service Inc. and Bartholomew County Youth Services in late July to launch Columbus’ first Safe Place program.

Safe Place is designed to be a safe haven for teens who feel unsafe or unhappy at home.

Although firefighters with the Columbus Fire Department have always been willing to help troubled youth, the Safe Place program turns that expands that willingness into an official program, said Capt. Mike Wilson, fire department spokesman.

“We’ve always considered ourselves a safe place,” Wilson said. “It’s a no-brainer for us. We are a 24-hour agency, we’re placed throughout the community, and we want to make that (help) available to the youth in Columbus.”

To become an official Safe Place, Wilson said Columbus firefighters had to go through a training process to ensure they understand the Safe Place requirements.

Firefighters watched a video and learned about procedural guidelines for the program, Wilson said.

The firefighters also learned about the “TXT 4 HELP” program, which allows teens to learn the location of the nearest Safe Place simply be sending a text.

The fire stations will now be marked with the official Safe Place yellow diamond, and all new firefighters will be required to go through the training as part of their official fire training.

The entire fire department will renew its training annually.

Other trained Safe Place locations in Columbus include United Way, Donner Center, Hamilton Center and The Commons. In addition, any youth may approach personnel in a fire truck or fire vehicle to seek assistance.

About 10 other agencies are currently in the process of becoming Safe Place locations, Safe Place organizers said.

For more information on how to become a Safe Place, contact Foundation For Youth, 812-372-7867.

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When a teen enters a Safe Place location, employees at the location are trained to call either Foundation for Youth, Family Service or Youth Services. A trained employee from one of those organizations would then come to the Safe Place and assess the situation. If a teen needs counseling or needs to be referred for additional help, Family Service would handle the counseling and referral process. If the child needs a place to sleep for the night, Youth Services would provide a bed for up to 48 hours, as well as a one-on-one intervention, if needed. About a dozen Columbus children are expected to use the Safe Place program each year.