Palmetto Place designated National Safe Place for the Midlands during Homeless Youth Awareness Month
Lexington County, S.C. – As the issue of a growing homeless population continues in Lexington County, people most familiar with the situation find that the homeless have no cookie cutter mold. Experts know that the homeless are not always a particular age, race, sex, color, or nationality. The homeless reflect the makeup of the community they often wander and the story of how they became homeless is just as diverse. Some of the most unrecognized are children and youths who often have horrid stories of what led up to their lack of a real home. For these young people in Lexington County and across the Midlands, Palmetto Place can often be the answer to the prayers of the homeless child or youth and anyone who has their plight in their hearts and on their minds.
Palmetto Place Children & Youth Services, a safe place that has been a home for children and teens who are experiencing crisis since 1977, is raising awareness during November’s National Homeless Youth Awareness Month by launching their partnership with National Safe Place. National Safe Place is a community initiative that designates youth-friendly organizations as safe locations for service or shelter.
As the designated Midlands’ National Safe Place agency, Palmetto Place is partnering with community businesses and agencies in effort to combat the growing epidemic of youth homelessness across the community. QuikTrip, Richland County Public Library, The Comet, MIRCI and multiple law enforcement department employees received training to recognize signs of youth homelessness and connect them with Palmetto Place for immediate assistance. The businesses will have a Safe Place sign in the window to inform the youth that it’s a trusted place for help.
In addition, Palmetto Place is partnering with local businesses and restaurants around Richland and Lexington counties to display mannequins during November. Each mannequin, sponsored by Daybreak Adult Care Services, is wearing a hoodie that has various statistics about youth homelessness. Mannequins are located at Mast General Store, Steve’s Deli, WECO, Now & Then Store, 1801 Grille and Café Strudel.
“We want our community to know that youth homelessness doesn’t look like the person wearing torn clothing holding a sign on a street corner,” says Jill McHugh, executive director. “Youth experiencing homelessness are high school students who play on the basketball team and make all A’s, or maybe they attend college and are sleeping in a classroom building because they can’t afford a dorm and have no family. They might wake up from their sleeping bag in a parking garage and go to work every day at your favorite restaurant. Homeless youth are walking and working all around us and we want this month to be the start of more people recognizing it.”
In 2020, Palmetto Place provided housing and wraparound services to 62 homeless youth ages 16-20. It also received international accreditation by Council on Accreditation.
Palmetto Place is a group home and offers services and housing for youth experiencing homelessness as well as pregnant and parenting teens along with their infants/toddlers in foster care. To learn more about the organization including services, volunteer opportunities or to donate, visit www.palmettoplace.org.