LEE COUNTY, Fla.- More and more businesses across Southwest Florida are getting involved in the Safe Place program, providing refuge for kids who have no place to go.
Safe Place has been around for year. Participating locations, typically libraries and fire stations, open their doors to children ages 10 to 17 who feel they can no longer stay at home.
"Usually, a child is in a pretty bad place and they really need help to reach out to us," said Kathy Houser, of Lutheran Services of Florida. Lutheran Services sponsors Safe Place in southwest Florida.
Houser said more children seek refuge during the holiday season because of the extra stress that often impacts families.
According to Houser, the number of Safe Place locations has doubled to more than 400 across southwest Florida during 2013.
Over the past year, Lutheran Services has struck new partnerships with United Way and Goodwill. Walgreen's also agreed to make every southwest Florida a store a Safe Place location, making the pharmacy chain the first retailer to participate locally.
"Hopefully, everybody is already safe in their house at home, but Walgreen's is happy to be a part of this organization," said Heather Forrest, a Fort Myers Walgreen's manager, who recently went through Safe Place training with her staff. "(Lutheran Services) gave us proper numbers to call if a kid comes in in need and we need to contact them."
Once Lutheran Services gets the call, the child is brought to the Oasis Youth Shelter for individualized help.
According to Lutheran Services, 95% of children who seek out Safe Places eventually return to their families and rebuild their lives.