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In 2008 The Youth and Families Alternatives, Inc’s George W. Harris, Jr. Runaway and Youth Crisis Shelter formed a partnership with Citrus Connection and Winter Haven Area Transit that offered the first youth mobile Safe Places in Polk County, making it even simpler for youth in crisis to access help and safety.

Safe Place is a national outreach and prevention program designed to provide immediate access to help for youth in crisis situations, experiencing abuse or neglect.

All buses, fixed route, paratransit, and supervisor vehicles display the Safe Place logo along with bus terminals in Lakeland and Winter Haven. Bus operators have been trained to understand and react to the Safe Place program. A child in trouble simply needs to access one of the buses indicating a problem and the bus operator will contact dispatch for help.

The Harris Shelter, which opened in Bartow in January 2007, serves youth to age 17 offering a safe, clean environment, 24 hour supervision and professional counseling services. Youth residing at the shelter attend local schools and are provided with all their needs. Youth and Family Alternatives is supported in part by United Way of Central Florida and Publix Super Market Charities. To obtain more information call the toll free number, 800-786-8614. The shelter is located at 1060 US HWY 17.

Youth and Family Alternatives, Inc. (YFA) founded in 1970 is the primary provider of shelter and counseling for runaway and homeless youth in the Tri-County area. The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that one in every seven kids will run away at least once before the age of 18. Statistics show that it doesn’t matter if they’re from rich or poor families. Kids run away from all types of home structures for many reasons. YFA has operated shelters in Polk County since 1995.

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