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City Provides 'Safe Havens' for Kids
By Kathy Dalle-Molle
Kampaign Kidz -- a citywide child-safe-ty partnership that includes S.F. SAFE (Safety Awareness For Everyone), the San Francisco police and fire departments, the Department of Parking and Traffic, the Rec and Park Department, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors -- is celebrating its Safe Haven program on Saturday, May 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the McDonald's Restaurant at 820 Bryant Street, located next to the Hall of Justice.
Games, arts and crafts, and face painting will be part of the event, and the first 100 youths, ages 5 to 17, who show up will receive a free McDonald's meal.
On the more serious side, members of the police and fire departments will be on hand to teach safety tips and take fingerprints of children for families to keep in their home records. The fingerprints can be helpful in case of a child abduction. Parents also will learn about the need to keep updated photos and video recordings of their children in a secure place, such as a bank safe deposit box. In addition, kids will get the scoop on how to spot a "Safe Haven" in San Francisco.
Look for the Yellow Circle
Since 1999, Kampaign Kidz has been working to provide safe havens for children who "may find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation," says Diane Rose, director of the program, which is funded through the Mayor's Office of Children, Youth, and Families. Last year, with their parents' consent, the program took fingerprints of 1,000 San Francisco school-age children. "However," says Rose, "Kampaign Kidz's primary purpose is to call 911 for each child who needs to use the service."
Currently, 270 "Safe Havens" are located at social service agencies around the city, including at every police and fire station in San Francisco. In addition, 250 parking control officers in the Department of Parking and Traffic act as mobile sites to help a child in need. Kampaign Kidz also is working to bring Muni, the public library, and all public schools on board.
When a child comes to one of these sites, a trained Safe Haven volunteer determines what happened to the child and what the child's needs are. The volunteer then calls 911 and provides a safe place for the child to wait until help arrives.
Children can identify a building as a Safe Haven site if a Kampaign Kidz logo is placed near the building's entrance. The logo includes a bright yellow-rimmed circle. Inside the circle are two child figures, standing back to back. The logo also includes the words, "Kampaign Kidz Safe Haven Child Safety Program" and "911 calls made for a child in need."
Right now in Noe Valley, the neighborhood's fire stations -- on 26th Street near Church and at Hoffman and Alvarado streets -- are the only official Safe Havens. However, kids should not hesitate to flag down a parking or police officer, or go into a school, store, or other public place if they find they need help.
Shops and Homes May Be Next
Kampaign Kidz came about because of Rose's "frustration when trying to find a way to help young people who are traveling without an adult and are in fear of something or someone causing them harm," she says. "In the past, abductions may have been prevented, had a safe place been available for kids to run to in an unfamiliar area.
"Many youth have a long way to travel to get to their school and back home," says Rose, "but even if it is only one block, when you are afraid, one block can be an awfully long way. Whether it's a bully, a gang, a person following them in a vehicle or following them on foot, if a child is afraid, they should be able to count on help."
Eventually, Rose hopes to expand Safe Haven to include businesses and neighbors. Already, Captain Marsha Ashe of the Ingleside Police Station has volunteered to help start a pilot program for small business owners in Noe Valley and other neighborhoods in the Ingleside Police District.
"Good things start small," Ashe says, "and I think businesses along Church, 24th Street, Cortland, Mission, and Monterey are particularly well suited for the Safe Haven program."
For more information about Kampaign Kidz and the May 12 event, call 864-KIDZ or e-mail kampaignkidz@hot mail.com.
If you are a small business owner interested in becoming a Safe Haven volunteer, contact Ingleside Police Captain Marsha Ashe by phone at 404-4000 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. M