Preventing abuse and bullying; Safe Place trying to get the word out

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - When ABC 57 News learned that there was a Safe Place right across the street from Tramelle Sturgis' home we knew we need to step in to help raise awareness.

Safe Places, in part with the Youth Service Bureau of St. Joseph County has been working for more than 20 years to keep kids safe.

"All you have to do is walk in and ask for a manager, they know exactly what to do," Jacqueline Norris, Safe Place Coordinator for St. Joseph County said.

In South Bend safe places include, all fire stations, Memorial Hospital, St. Joseph County Library and Burger King locations. The businesses have a large yellow and black sign on the front door that shows an adult hugging a child with the bold words, Safe Place under the drawing. All children and teens have to do is go to a manager and tell them what is wrong and those with Safe Places will be contacted.

'It's okay to ask for help, you've done a really good thing, you have done a brave thing. Don't worry about snitching or being in trouble. You have lead to something that could help you and your entire family," Norris said.

Once Safe Place is contacted they send a volunteer to meet the youth at the location that an employee called from.

Those 12-18 are allowed to stay at the Safe Place shelter for up to 21 days. If needed, volunteers will contact CPS or police in extreme cases. Norris said that children have reported, abuse, neglect, pregnancy, and bullying at several Safe Place locations.

Click here to see a complete list of all the Safe Place locations in St. Joseph County.

There is also a 24/7 hot line for youth to call, 574-235-9396.

One of the Safe Places is Miss Adeline's Barber Shop at 1131 West Washington Street, South Bend. It is directly across the street from where Tramelle Sturgis, 10, was beaten to death less than a week ago.

"We just wish we had been able to help them, " Adeline Jones said.

Jones has owned the barber shop for at least 35 years, for the past 15 years it has been a "Safe Place."

"If there is ever a problem or a disturbance, you can come here and feel safe until we call the right number and get you some help."

Jones said she was very upset to learn that Tramelle was beaten and died just 80 feet away from her Safe Place business, "We have the sign and it's up in the window but we don't know if the children understand.

Jones wishes that the program was talked about at the elementary school level. Currently Safe Places only holds presentations at middle and high schools across the county.

I asked Norris if she felt that they needed to be in elementary schools, this is what she said, "Because our shelters house 12-18, I think from time-to-time we talked about that but we would have no place to house them."

Norris did say that those younger than 12 are able to access and get help from all Safe Places.

Volunteers with Safe Place speak each year to every school across St. Joseph County educating middle and high schoolers about what it means and how they are willing to help.

This year, Norris said that New Prairie and Laville school districts, for the first time ever, said they don't want a presentation from Safe Place.

St. Joseph and Marion Middle & High School has never allowed Safe Place to give a presentation at its schools.

Norris said the more awareness the better in hopes of reaching as many kids as possible.

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