Community Relations

Staying Connected and Reaching Out During Summer

Written by: Karen Sieve, Regional Safe Place Manager, Youth in Need

Summer is around the corner.  Memorial Day means public pools are opening, and temperatures are warming up.  Summer is an important time for youth outreach.  Schools, which provide structure and additional supports throughout the fall, winter and spring, are not in session.  Children, teens and those who care about them are looking for fun activities to keep them occupied and out of trouble.  As temperatures heat up, however, many young people opt to stay indoors and find themselves home alone.  This can make outreach a challenge.

During this tricky time, what does Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team do?  Here are few tips to get you started.

Go to where the youth are.  Reach out to YMCAs, scouting groups, churches, community parks and other organizations that offer summer camps and other organized activities.  They may be looking for fun and educational activities to keep youth engaged.  Community parks and rec centers provide space and a variety of opportunities for young people to swim, jump rope, and play basketball, soccer, baseball, ping pong and pool.  They may have areas designated for teens to hang out and watch movies or use the Internet.  Parks and other public venues often offer summer concerts where youth tend to mingle.  Most parks provide plenty of shade, so youth can hang out under pavilions or trees to keep cool.  Be sure to have plenty of outreach cards and resource information on hand for distribution.  Bring along hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water as well. Indoor skating rinks offer an additional fun option for young people to gather, listen to music, hang out, and stay cool. Most libraries provide a cool place to read and offer free computer access.  Introduce yourself to library staff.  Let them know how you can help young people so they can refer youth and turn to your agency as a resource.

Now is also a good time to check community calendars for upcoming festivals and fairs.  If possible, team up with another youth program within your agency so your agency is not only represented at a booth, but also available to walk around and meet youth, families and other participants.  Distribute outreach cards and resource information, and have hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water available as well.

Bring the youth to you.  Consider teaming up with your Safe Place partners to offer fun events that will bring youth to you.  For example, ask your local fire departments to turn on water hydrants for a quick and fun cool down on hot summer days.

Team up with community partners.  In previous years, Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team hosted a free back-to-school barbeque and grilled hotdogs and burgers.  Ask your community partners to co-sponsor the event and provide donations of chips, sports drinks, soft drinks, bottled water, ice cream and school supplies.  Ask your local radio station to broadcast, or if they are not available, bring your Bluetooth speaker and play some tunes.

Utilize social media.  Promote these events and your agency’s whereabouts on social media.  Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team has a Facebook page that is popular among youth in our community.  Additionally, Facebook Live can be a fun way to inform and engage youth in what your team is doing and how you can help.  Facebook offers some great tips to get you started, https://live.fb.com/tips/.

Summer presents a unique set of challenges for outreach staff.  The key to reaching youth is creativity, flexibility and utilizing existing partnerships and social media to stay connected.

Valley Metro Designates 900 Buses as Safe Place Locations for Youth

Written by: Hillary Ladig, Communications Coordinator for National Safe Place Network, Media Release written by Ann Glaser, Public Information Specialist, Valley Metro

Safe Place is an outreach and prevention-based program for youth coordinated by licensed agencies in communities across the country. The program relies on community partnerships to strengthen the safety net for youth and to provide designated Safe Place locations where young people can access immediate help and safety. Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, located in Phoenix, Arizona, recently announced an expanded partnership with Valley Metro to add 900 buses to the community’s network of Safe Place locations.

PHOENIX, AZ (November 22, 2016) – As of today, homeless, runaway and abused teens can connect to life-changing resources on every Valley Metro and city of Phoenix bus in Maricopa County. In support of local youth and in partnership with Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, Valley Metro has expanded Safe Place from light rail stations to include all 900 buses that serve 100 routes across 512 square miles.

“Valley Metro is part of the fabric of this community, and we have a strong commitment to not only connecting people to their lives, but also creating opportunity and cultivating safe neighborhoods,” said Scott Smith, Valley Metro CEO. “Thanks to the support of our operating partners, the Valley’s most vulnerable teenagers will now be able to access safety, shelter and stability in times of distress.”

Safe Place is a national youth outreach program that supports young people in need of immediate health and safety resources in more than 1,500 communities across the country.  It is managed locally by Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development.

“For 40 years, Tumbleweed has provided resources and opportunities for youth in our community who are homeless, abused or traumatized,” said Paula Adkins, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development Interim CEO. “Valley Metro’s expansion of Safe Place to all local buses will drastically increase our presence in Maricopa County and allow us to reach more youth.”

Decals with the Safe Place yellow and black logo are visible on each bus. In addition to Valley Metro buses and light rail stations, Safe Place locations include QuikTrip convenience stores, libraries and fire departments. Eighteen year-old Vicky R. went to a local QuikTrip to seek safety for herself and her baby from a threatening family situation.

“I am alive today because of Safe Place,” Vicky reveals. “With the support of Safe Place and Tumbleweed, I’m back in high school to get my education and I’m gaining valuable financial and life skills, which will help me achieve my goals for my son and me.”

Valley Metro’s partnership with Tumbleweed began in 2013 and has continued to grow with the opening of two light rail extensions and the expansion of bus service within Phoenix. To learn more about Safe Place, visit valleymetro.org/safeplace.

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Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix Vice Mayor Kate Gallego and Phoenix Councilmember Laura Pastor along with representatives from Valley Metro, City of Phoenix, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, Transdev, First Transit and Allied Universal.

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If you’re interested in becoming a Safe Place location or would like to start the program in your community, please contact Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations, at sharmon@nspnetwork.org or 502-635-3660.

November is National Runaway Prevention Month

Written by: Hillary Ladig & Elizabeth Smith Miller, NSPN Communications Team

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Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away each year. If all of these young people lived in one city, it would be the fifth largest city in the U.S. These numbers are simply unacceptable, especially when you consider that many of these youth will end up on the streets. They are not bad kids; they are good kids caught up in bad situations. By supporting National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM), you’re showing America’s runaway and homeless youth that they are not invisible and they are not alone.

Here are some ways you can get involved in NRPM and create awareness in your community:

  • Facebook Profile Picture – Wednesday, November 2nd: Lately, the trend on Facebook is to add a filter to your profile picture to show that you support a certain cause and to spread awareness. This year, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) has created an NRPM filter you can utilize to show support for runaway and homeless youth: [link to profile filter]
  • Wear Green Day – Wednesday, November 9th: Most people have something green in their closet; whether it be a t-shirt, tie, pair of socks, etc. Coordinate a “Wear Green” day with your coworkers, friends, students, and/or classmates on November 9th. This is a fun and easy way to encourage people to learn more about NRPM. For added impact, take a photo of your group wearing green and post it to social media using the hashtag #NRPM2016. Tag NRS and they’ll share your photo.
  • National Candlelight Vigil – Wednesday, November 16th: Youth Service agencies, community groups, and individuals will host candlelight vigils to show solidarity with youth in crisis. Host your own candlelight vigil in your neighborhood, at your school, your workplace, your place of worship, etc. This event is low cost and high impact.
  • Selfie Sign Day – Wednesday, November 23rd: On this day, NRS’ website, www.1800runaway.org, will have a “Selfie Sign” available for individuals to download. The sign will show you are supporting NRPM 2016, but they’re also encouraging everyone to use the caption, “This is how I have helped a friend…” and have everyone share a story about how they’ve helped a friend.

National Safe Place Network is honored to partner with NRS and the National Network for Youth to support NRPM. To learn more about NRPM, please visit: http://www.1800runaway.org/runaway-prevention-month/

To view the 2016 NRPM Toolkit and Messaging Guide, please click here: http://www.1800runaway.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/NRPM-2016-ToolKit-and-Messaging-Guide-1.pdf

Poem: The Flame Within
My living flame burns bright inside.
Not dimmed or extinguished by tears I have cried.
I hold it closely and protect its light.
To guide me through what feels like eternal night.
How can such a small flame light my way?
Does it have the strength to repel the cold things people say?
I recognize what you may not.
That my flame, while small, is very hot.
It heats my mind with thoughts of those who were kind.
It eases my fear when strangers are near.
It ignites my passion to do what is right for me.
When others only focus on the wrong that they see.
For all of us looking to find some sense of ease,
for some sense of safety,
for some sense of peace.
For some sign that we are not alone,
let your flames burn brightly to guide us “home.”

~ Anonymous

Cutting Through the Noise: Advocating for our Kids during the Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

As a political junkie, I love presidential election years. I especially love years like this: where a few months ago there was no incumbent and wide-open races on both sides (depending on who you ask). These campaign cycles can also be incredibly frustrating. Candidates visit small towns where they would never otherwise set foot, eat state fair food, rub elbows with locals, and mug for photos. It all feels inauthentic. Fake. How can a long-serving U.S. senator really speak on behalf of working families? How can a billionaire relate to middle class workers? How can privileged white men and women relate to the plights of runaway youth? How can powerful people understand what it’s like to be homeless when they have never had to worry whether they will have a place to sleep, or a hot meal and shower waiting for them in the morning?

This is where we come in. As advocates, youth workers, execs leading youth and family-serving agencies, it’s up to us to make sure the needs of these young people and families are heard. We need to beat the drum to make sure affordable housing, funds for runaway and homeless youth programs, and affordable health care for young people are priorities for elected leaders at all levels of government – from city council to the President of the United States.

Here are some ideas for getting involved this election year:

  1. Host elected officials at your organization or shelter. Show them around and explain how you operate, what you need, and what it means to the young people you serve. This could include your city officials, state senators and representations, or US congress members. If you are in an early caucus or primary state, you may even be able to get a presidential candidate (see above comments).
  2. Write Letters to the Editor of your local papers. Highlight your programs and how proposed legislative changes (at all levels of government), will impact your agencies and the youth you service, for the better or worse.
  3. Communicate with your elected officials. Make phone calls. Email them. National officials track the number of calls and emails they receive on specific issues. State officials often do the same. It may not seems like they are listening, they are tracking!
  4. Encourage your staff to vote. Encourage young people to vote. Take young people to the primaries or election in November. Help them register. It’s their right.

However you get involved, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your voice heard and advocate on behalf of the young people we serve.

Use Pokemon Go to Keep Kids Safe

Written by: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

You might have heard of this little monster game called Pokemon Go.  This game is all the rage right now and has been downloaded more than 7.5 million times (and hasn’t even become available everywhere yet!)  You might be asking… “Why is NSPN talking about this?”  The answer is simple… “potential.”  With so much interest and emphasis on mobility, organizations have the potential to use the game to draw community members to them.  When community members come to you, there’s an opportunity to share available youth and family services and resources (including your organization and the local Safe Place program.)

To take advantage of this potential, use the game app to identify PokeStops in your area.  Select one of these stops as a location where you want to set up a table with information and resources.  Since this game draws people to a location, partnering with a business, such as a Safe Place site, provides an easy opportunity to ask the business to donate the money used to purchase Lures.  Whether you ask for a donation or not, please make sure you obtain permission when setting up at a public location.  Learn more about PokeStops here:  http://www.ign.com/wikis/pokemon-go/PokeStops  http://attackofthefanboy.com/guides/pokemon-go-guide-pokestops-use/

After identifying and setting up at your location, it’s time to “lure” community members in.  As inc.com explains Pokemon Go offers a range of in-app purchases. The one that is most important for your [organization] is Lures.  Lures increase the rate of Pokemon generation in the area around the PokeStop where they’re placed for one half hour.”  Inc.com also shares the affordability of luring.

“With $100 netting you could purchase 14,500 Pokecoins and an eight-pack of Lures costing 680 Pokecoins:

14,500 Pokecoins / 680 = 21 eight-packs of lures
(21 * 8)/2 = 84 hours
$100/84 hours = $1.19 per hour

Once you send out your Lures, sit back and watch the crowd come in.  While sharing the great resources to community members, it’s a good idea to remind them that anyone can purchase Lures, so safety is key!  Remind youth and family members to not visit secluded areas and don’t adventure out alone.

You can learn more about how to use this game to #KeepKidsSafe and generate awareness about available resources in your community at:  http://www.inc.com/walter-chen/pok-mon-go-is-driving-insane-amounts-of-sales-at-small-local-businesses-here-s-h.html

If you don’t play the game, this might all sound crazy.  Here’s a great website you can visit it learn the ins and outs of the game.  http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/11/health/pokemon-go-guide-trnd/

It’s also helpful to know what some of the associated lingo is.  Here’s a handy chart:

PokeGlossaryImage credit: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/11/health/pokemon-go-guide-trnd/

You can also see some tips and tricks about Pokemon Go here:

And, at the end of the day… If you’re not ready to embrace Pokemon Go, it’s still probably beneficial to learn a little about it so you know what folks are talking about.

“Gotta catch ‘em all!” Have fun!

Live Life Unfiltered

Written by: Elizabeth Smith Miller, Communications Coordinator, National Safe Place Network

It’s no doubt technology has made life more…let’s say convenient. Technology has provided increased accessibility for education, safety, healthcare, and entertainment. It has also paved a new way to build “social connections”. But, with these new “social connections” – are we really connecting? Technology enables increased efficiency and productivity; however, it has disabled true conversation, connection, and togetherness. Take a moment and watch a powerful video authored by Prince Ea. In this video, he shares a simple message to encourage you to be balanced, mindful, and present. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl8EIhrQjQ

Some have argued that technology has strengthened communication; however, I believe technology has made communication faster and shorter – not stronger. In fact, I believe communication is strongest when no form of technology is involved at all.

I have found technology – as wonderful as it is – often times interrupts, rather than improves our lives.  Look around; you’ll begin to notice how society is starting to live through technology instead of taking the brilliant science behind it to meet certain needs. So many moments are being lost because they are being experienced through a (screen) filter. I want to shout – “LIVE IN THE MOMENT!” I mean, don’t you want to experience something you enjoy first hand and not through a screen? I was at a concert one evening and I was recording the song I had been waiting for all day. About half-way through, I realized I was watching it through my screen. With excitement, I had been waiting for that very moment and almost missed the entire thing. I wasn’t allowing myself to experience something joyful. I was watching it with a filter, which I could have just as easily watched on screen from home. It was that moment that I realized the value of just enjoying the in-person experience. When you have a better connection with your phone than a person, you are living life through technology. It’s time to make some changes. Live life unfiltered; live in the moment.

Here are five ways you can start living life unfiltered:

  • Adjust your morning routine.
    • Put your phone out of reach.  Many of us sleep with the phone right beside us and the first thing we do in the morning is check our emails or social media accounts.  Try starting the day off with a nice stretch or meditation instead.
  • Leave home without it.
    • That’s right…leave your phone at home.  Plan a day with the family or by yourself and leave the technology at home.  If you’re concerned about an emergency, let others know where you’ll be and what time you expect to get home.  If there is an actual emergency, they will do what they did before cell phones… they will find you.
  • Eat and be merry.
    • Make your time at the table, chair, or couch technology free.  Simply enjoy your meal and savor each bite.  Not only is it the healthiest option, it’s also a way to actually connect with others – or yourself if you choose to have a bite alone.
  • Don’t drop one piece of technology for another.
    • While smart phones have become a one-stop-shop for all things, technology doesn’t begin and end there.  If you truly want to disconnect for a while – turn the television off too.  Instead, go outside and plant a flower or tree, pull out the big tub of photos (you know – the ones you had to go and get developed to see them.)  Sit down around a table and relive the memories or share those memories with those who weren’t there – especially those who don’t know what life is like without the technology of today.
  • Don’t allow over-stimulation to control your life.

Here’s a fun life-hack where you can make a quick change to help you avoid over-stimulation and potentially reduce the urge to constantly check your smart phone: http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/480240/adventures-in-grayscale/?utm_source=SFTwitter

Seton Youth Shelters’ Spring Cleaning Campaign

Written by: Karlaa Williams, Public Relations & Donor Associate, Seton Youth Shelters

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Seton Youth Shelters has just finished celebrating 30 years of Changing Lives, Building Futures for more than 250,000 teens and their families, free of charge since 1985. With our three main program areas – shelters, mentoring children of prisoners program and street outreach programs – donations are always needed, from bathroom tissue, to non-perishable food items, to hygiene items and household cleaning products.

In this age of social media, online giving sites like GoFundMe, and others, pinpointing a specific audience can be a bit difficult.

Here at Seton Youth Shelters, we attempt to think outside the box and engage the community on a regular basis. Many of our donors are have families with small children and teens, just like many of the youth we serve. The Hampton Roads area is seven cities clustered on the southeastern coast of Virginia. Last year, in celebration of our 30th anniversary, we had a year-long calendar of events from open houses, to a bench dedication in honor of a longtime supporter, to our Spring Cleaning Campaign. We even opened a “Seton Shop” featuring Seton-branded mugs, shirts, caps for those dedicated supporters.

Our favorite and most successful campaign is the Spring Cleaning Campaign. Seton Youth Shelters is the official designee for Thrift Store USA, ranked as one of the nation’s top thrift stores by Lucky Magazine.  A Norfolk stop for all thing vintages, chic and….of course thrifty. This 26,000 sq. feet store has furniture, mattresses, shoes, jewelry and clothes. Many thrift stores are known buy their items from warehouses because of a lack of donations. Not so with Thrift Store USA! They have placed more than 100 donation bins around Hampton Roads. It’s in these distinctive, bright blue bins sporting the Seton Youth Shelters’ logo, on which our donors to place many items to be sold. The Spring Cleaning Campaign directed donors to the bins!

When designing our campaign, we thought of this:

You and your family are cleaning up all the old clothes from last year that you didn’t wear and placing them in these large plastic bags. The house is clean! But where do you put all of these bags?

That is the scenario that I believed many area families and donors were going through. Thrift Store USA’s truck will pick up bulk donations free of charge, from your home. Don’t have that many items? There are plenty of Thrift Store USA bins, you can surely do a quick drop off. Voila! Donations gone…and you have done a great deed!

Interested in campaign ideas? Here are some tips!

  • Identify your audience
    • Families
    • Small children
    • Teens
    • Churches etc.
  • If you have a bulk list of donation needs, condense it down for social media. Ask for one to two things.
  • Ask donors to sponsor a single item that you really need. Maybe they don’t have the time to go and buy it for you, but are willing to give you $50 to buy it yourself or towards to total purchase price.
  • Get creative! Think seasons or the nearest holiday and how to integrate that into your needs! Need more sunscreen for outings? Seedlings or flowers as a gardening activity? Holiday tree decorating?
  • Use social media to get the word out. Create custom hashtags that specify your campaign.
  • Encourage your followers to share! Sharing your posts increases the views, and helps you spread the word.
  • Spend some money! Boosting social media posts for $10 can be very beneficial, especially when spending that $10 gets you over $100 in donations.
  • Always say “Thank You”. Whether it’s a photo posted on your social media pages, a handwritten thank you, a phone call, or a “shout out” at your next fundraising event. Just say it!