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Providing a “Safe Space”

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There’s a new Safe Space — literally — and your invited to its grand opening.

This past July, Safe Space, which has been helping families in Queens since 1919, consolidated all of its Jamaica-based facilities into one headquarters at 162nd Street and Jamaica Avenue.

To celebrate the new digs, they’ll open their doors to the public for the “Big Move and Homecoming at Safe Space” open house on Monday, Sept. 13, with face painting, games, and other fun activities for children. There will also be a free concert featuring Broadway actors and children from Safe Space’s programs held at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.

Founded as the Queensboro Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Safe Space has reinvented itself over the years, with two name changes and countless program changes to adapt to public needs since beginning operations in 1919. Along with its center in Jamaica, Safe Space also has facilities in Richmond Hill and Far Rockaway and runs services in partnership with six public schools in Southeast Queens.

The need for these services is overwhelming in Southeast Queens, which is Safe Space’s catchment area.

A recent Citizens Committee for Children of New York study revealed that in 2008, Community District 12 (Jamaica-St. Albans) had the second-highest number of reported violent felonies; the most felony youth arrests (under 16 years of age); the second-highest number of reportedly abused children, and the most seriously emotionally disturbed youth. Meanwhile, the city reports that in 2008 the rate of HIV infections in Jamaica was twice the overall Queens average.

Here are some examples of what Safe Space has accomplished:

Reuben

By the age of five, the trauma of watching his heavy-drinking father repeatedly beat his mother had caused Reuben to disengage, refusing to make eye contact with other people or talk to anyone but immediate family.

Thanks to a referral from his teacher, he arrived at Safe Space NYC’s Seen & Heard program in Far Rockaway and underwent individual and group therapy for about two years. Eventually, he started chatting with his peers and talking on the phone.

Brenda

Pregnant and walking along Jamaica Avenue, Brenda was approached by a Safe Space outreach worker who discovered she had no support system, was not enrolled in prenatal care and had no idea how far along her pregnancy was. Brenda had only lived in the United States for a few months, and was unaware of the services that were available.

She enrolled in Safe Space’s Community Health Workers Program in Jamaica and was immediately referred to the Queens Hospital Center for prenatal care, where she learned she was six months pregnant, had gestational diabetes, and was underweight. With help from the agency, Brenda applied for government assistance and received education on healthy eating. She even received a few necessary items for her baby at the agency’s community baby shower.

At a later prenatal visit, Brenda was told that the pregnancy was going extremely well, she was at a healthy weight and had normal blood glucose levels. She later gave birth to healthy baby boy.

Magdalena

After running away from an abusive husband, Magdalena and her two children arrived at Safe Space with various health problems. The agency provided financial assistance for her to live in a new apartment and get back on her feet while her children went to weekly counseling. Magdalena, a dialysis technician, attended counseling, group therapy and parent-education workshops. She left the program independent and ready to become a nurse.

•••

Ruben, Brenda and Magdalena (real names have been changed to protect their identities) are three examples of the wide array of clients who come to Safe Space — a non-profit organization that serves more than 10,000 people a year, focusing on five service divisions: mental health, community health, family support, at-risk youth and school-based enrichment. The agency runs two licensed mental health clinics, provides counseling, case management and legal assistance to domestic-violence victims, does outreach and education related to AIDS, and offers prenatal and postnatal care. Safe Space also operates two drop-in centers for adolescents, ages 13-21, which offer youth programs and support services, and runs two 12-bed transitional-living facilities for homeless youth.

The Safe Space open house is expected to attract hundreds of people, including elected officials, civic leaders and neighborhood businesses.

The Big Move and Homecoming at Safe Space [89-74 162nd Street at Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica (718) 526-2400] and Jamaica Performing Arts Center [153rd Street and Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica (718) 658-7400]. Sept. 13, 4–8:30 pm. Free. For info, visit www.safespacenyc.org.

Updated 10:59 am, August 16, 2010
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