"We do have resources in the community here for youth in need," Barber said. "Being National Safe Place Week, I think it's a great opportunity for parents or caregivers to discuss with their kids that if they're in a situation where they need help that they can certainly ask for help at one of the locations that has the Safe Place sign. It allows them an opportunity to have a safe place and have care and hope given to them."
Through the Safe Place program, youth can express they need assistance at any of the participating sites designated by a yellow and black Safe Place sign. Once contacted, a Safe Place representative responds quickly to the Bartow location and after assessing the situation, they determine what steps need to be taken, such as the youth returning home or possibly staying at the nonprofit's Flowering Branch Children's Shelter overnight.
In the northwest Georgia area, there are 56 Safe Place locations, including Kona Ice, which is the region's sole mobile site. Continuing its partnership with Advocates for Children, Hilton Garden Inn of Cartersville is becoming the nonprofit's newest Safe Place site.
"My understanding is that we're the only official hotel property in all of the state of Georgia that has been excited to move forward with being viewed as a safe haven and in speaking with our Hilton corporate folks, we're actually the only Hilton Garden Inn in the world [to participate], which is significant," said Michele Sims, director of sales and marketing for Hilton Garden Inn, 24 Liberty Drive. "So what our staff and I are hoping is, one, that it will bring awareness for such a great need and hopefully bring others on board.
"Our hotel has always had a very close relationship with Advocates. We partner together. We've had some of the children [from Advocates' shelter] here for dinner -- hosted them for dinner -- just to provide them something fun and something to let them know that they are important. So Advocates has always had a very special place in our hearts as a whole, mine personally on a very personal note. But I think it's really what Cartersville ... represents is that yes we're a community but we're really a tight knit family and we all help each other. We just [asked ourselves] 'what can we do to help' and we felt like this would be a wonderful way for our entire property to help the kids that need it."
While providing that safe place, Barber said, "We ask the staff members or the employees to simply [provide] the youth that's in need ... somewhere quiet to sit and that they just contact us here at the shelter, our 24-hour number. And we have one of our staff members go and meet with the youth and determine if they need to come here to the shelter or need to talk with a counselor. Often we have had situations where we've brought the youth here to the shelter and one of our counselors has maybe talked with the youth and the parent.
"Once you get the third party, it seems like it's easier for them to talk over their problems. ... I think there are more kids in need than people realize. There are more kids that, in my opinion, are like 17 and even some that have turned 18 that are in school and [are having] a lot of family issues. That's the No. 1 reason most kids are out of their homes or needing help. It's usually family issues and family problems."
For more information about the local Safe Place program and to view a list of participating sites, visit www.advochild.org. Further details can be obtained by joining its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bartow.safeplace or calling Barber or Melissa Hunt at 770-382-6180.