Kids in need often find it difficult to find somewhere safe to get the help they need. To improve their chances to find a safe haven and access crisis help the Citrus Connection is teaming with Youth and Family Alternatives to make all fixed route and Handy buses serve as Safe Places.
That means there will be about 60 new, mobile, safe places for youth in crisis. Buses will sport the Project Safe Place yellow and black logo on the front windshield. In addition, all buses will have advertising cards inside explaining the program and how kids can access help. The buses are a good place to reach children according to the Citrus Connection’s Cathy Wolosin, “We have a lot of students on our buses.”
YFA is the “primary provider of shelter and counseling for runaway and homeless youth in the Tri-County area” and operates the George W. Harris, Jr. Runaway and Youth Crisis Shelter at 1060 US Hwy. 17. The shelter will provide professional counseling services for youth seeking refuge at one of the rolling Safe Places. Bus operators and staff at the company’s headquarters and terminal have received training to help assist children in need.
“When our Operations Manager, Norman Whitaker, became aware of the Safe Place program and its service to children and youth, our staff and employees became excited about the opportunity it gives us to increase our service to the community.” said Danny Ours, Executive Director of the Lakeland Area Mass Transit District (LAMTD) d/b/a Citrus Connection.
Citrus Connection will have a kick off event for the project on April 22, at 2:30 pm at the Lakeland Bus Terminal, 200 Florida Ave.
Lakeland Area Mass Transit District, doing business as the Citrus Connection, was established 25 years ago to fund and operate public transportation in the Lakeland area. In 1999 Winter Haven, Bartow and Auburndale contracted with LAMTD to provide service to their communities. The combined services provide over 2,000,000 rides annually. In addition to the buses, the company headquarters and terminal will be Safe Places.
Youth and Family Alternatives, Inc. (YFA) founded in 1970 is the primary provider of shelter and counseling for runaway and homeless youth in the Tri-County area. The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that one in every seven kids will run away at least once before the age of 18. Statistics show that it doesn’t matter if they’re from rich or poor families. Kids run away from all types of home structures for many reasons. YFA has operated shelters in Polk County since 1995.
The Harris Shelter, which opened in Bartow in January 2007, serves youth to age 17 offering a safe, clean environment, 24 hour supervision and professional counseling services. Youth residing at the shelter attend local schools and are provided with all their needs. Youth and Family Alternatives is supported in part by United Way of Central Florida and Publix Super Market Charities. To obtain more information call the toll free number, 800-786-8614.