Runaway, homeless youth in need of safe place -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Runaway, homeless youth in need of safe place

July 5, 2005

Albany- According to Dougherty County youth agencies the number of children and teens on the streets is rising at an alarming rate.

In February, the Albany Police reported 16 runaways, twice the number during February of last year. Now, area youth advocates are pleading with the community to reach out to the youth and help provide them with a safe haven.

Eighteen year old Teleigha Peavy is now a responsible young adult living independently, but eight months ago the young mother and her daughter had no where to live.

"When I came to her I told her I was in desperate need of a place because right now it would be me and my daughter out on our own," says Peavy.

She says both she and her sister were kicked out the house. Peavy was referred to Open Arms, given a safe place to stay, and taught necessary life skills.

"You can be around people that are always there for you 24 hours, seven days a week. It doesn't matter what, you always have people that will be in you corner. It doesn't always have to be your family. It can be people in the community or your director or your life coach," Peavy says.

But, often times youth like Peavy don't know where to go or who to turn to and end up living on the streets and other unsafe environments.

"Some of them stay in situations where they are being molested, abused, and you can't go to mom, or mom's friend. You're trying to go somewhere where someone can help you. you can trust them to treat you with confidentiality and to be safe in doing so," says Rosalynn Fowler of Open Arms.

"Since the kids have actually been out of school we have gotten a number of calls for runaway and homeless youth," adds Fonda Strong, also of Open Arms.

Nearly two years ago Open Arms launched their Safe Place campaign, an effort to get area businesses and churches to reach out to runaway and homeless youth. They say participation is as easy as making a telephone call.

"What happens is we place a Safe Place sign at their sight, and if a child walks into your place of business all they have to do is pick up the phone, call Open Arms, and we will be to the rescue," explains Strong.

Unfortunately, the agency says not one business offered to post the signs and participate in the Safe Place program. It's been disappointing for the organization, but they are hoping the community will head their call.

"What we would like to see happen is our community get involved with Safe Place. We're asking our local business owners and our local churches to get involved," says Strong.

"Most of them are good kids. they come in and people haven't given them a fair chance," adds Fowler.

A chance to live in a safe place, turn their lives around, get counseling, and like Peavy find someone willing to care for them during their crisis.

Open Arms officials say the Safe Place is very successful in several other Georgia metropolitan cities.

If you want more information about becoming a Safe Place sight contact Open Arms at (229) 431-1121.


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