The city of Denison recently recognized the North Texas Youth Connection for its efforts to ensure teenagers and children have a safe place to go in the event of an emergency. The city recognized the organization with a proclamation by the mayor in honor of National Safe Place Week earlier this month.

“I, Janet Gott, mayor of the city of Denison, and on behalf of the entire city council, extend appreciation to the North Texas Youth connection for the vital services they perform,” Denison Mayor Janet Gott said during the proclamation.

Safe Place is a national outreach program for youth aimed at providing safe places for youth who have run away from home to seek help. Participating businesses and organizations often feature the program’s signature yellow and black diamond-shaped sign posted outside the building.

“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,” the organization said on its website. “Safe Place locations include: libraries, YMCAs, fire stations, public buses, various businesses, and social service facilities.”

The Safe Place program started in 1983 through a YMCA youth shelter in Louisville, Kentucky. As of 2019, more than 21,000 businesses and organizations participate, including 12 in Denison alone and 92 across the Cooke-Grayson-Fannin region. These local safe havens include Texoma Medical Center, Wilson N. Jones Medical Center and area Walmarts, among others.

In the event that a child comes to one of these locations, the local agency in charge of the local program is notified, Nicole West, prevention specialist and Safe Place coordinator for North Texas Youth Connection, said. The agency will then go to the location and offer assistance to the youth.

In many cases, this can come in the form of simply someone to talk to, she said. In other cases, the agency can offer transportation home or to a shelter.

In the case of the youth connection, West said it also operates a 10-bed youth shelter which regularly houses seven or more youth each day. West said the shelter offers children a safe play to stay for up to 90 days.

West noted that home isn’t always the safe place for everyone, and the cause of their trouble comes directly from their home life.

“We have kids that are running away from home for a reason and we need them to know there is a safe place to go,” West said.