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Rainbow House, Youth Community Coalition collaborate to create 'safe places' for youth

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 | 7:00 p.m. CDT; updated 9:29 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 5, 2012

COLUMBIA — Two Columbia youth advocacy organizations have been officially designated as "safe places" in the National Safe Place registry, the result of a long-standing collaborative effort to better reach youth in crisis.

Rainbow House and the Youth Community Coalition combined efforts to put Columbia on the Safe Place map.

Safe Place is a national organization that implements youth resource centers across the country. A site designated with the black and yellow Safe Place sign opens its doors for runaway youth and adolescents in crisis situations.

Safe Place announced Tuesday that Rainbow House had been officially registered, making it Columbia's second youth outreach organization to become a safe place. The Youth Community Coalition was registered in April.

Facilities such as fire and police stations are automatically designated safe places for youth seeking refuge, but established local youth centers serve as community spearheads to provide more extensive outreach services, such as shelter and counseling.

"With the participation of people in the community, we're just able to reach kids more effectively," said Rainbow House Volunteer Coordinator Clare Powell. Rainbow House partnered with the Youth Community Coalition to make their collective resources more accessible to Columbia youth.

Safe places serve as havens for youth who have either run away or are in danger. Programs offered by Rainbow House and the Coalition include counseling, advocacy, education, health services and drug prevention.

Laurie Jackson, executive director for National Safe Place, said it was a unique joint effort between Rainbow House and the Youth Community Coalition that led to the establishment of safe places in Columbia.

"Columbia really wanted to be a collaboration, which is great," Jackson said.

A city will typically have one Safe Place agency that acts as a leader in youth advocacy, but Jackson said the combined efforts of Rainbow House and the Youth Community Coalition set an example that outreach can and should be a community-wide mission.

"Columbia can be a model as we move forward, and show other cities that it's really a collaborative effort," Jackson said. "It's awesome when a whole community is attentive to the needs of adolescents."

Rainbow House is currently looking for volunteers to expand the initiative into the community at large, Powell said.

Rainbow House is at 1611 Towne Drive. The Youth Community Coalition center is at 201 Switzer St.

Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.


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