Nederland church becomes designated “Safe Place” for at-risk youths; Southeast Texas outreach set

Published 12:28 am Wednesday, July 19, 2023

NEDERLAND —Village of Faith is one of the latest organizations to partner with the Children’s Center Incorporated to become a “Safe Place” location.

Project Safe Place is a partnership with the business community and The Children’s Center, which is licensed by the National Safe Place Network to provide Safe Place sites in areas served by The Children’s Center.

The sites serve runaway and homeless youth and youth at risk for abuse, abandonment, neglect and exploitation with locations to seek crisis support.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Village of Faith Ministries, located 1016 S. 36th St. in Nederland, is hosting a back-to-school drive Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. in partnership with The Children’s Center to help spread the word.

Call the church at 409-344-9509 to learn more.

How it works

The Children’s Center has been protecting and mentoring youth and families nationally for 145 years.

Andrea Richard, local case manager for the Children’s Center, says local partnerships are key to the effort. All of the Golden Triangle is under their outreach.

The Children’s Center spreads awareness through area schools and word-of-mouth of “Safe Place” locations and how children can identify them.

“When they see the sign, they know that business is a safe place that they can go into,” Richard said. “When one of the staff members at one of our SafePlace locations, encounters a youth, then they bring them in, contact the phone number, and one of the case managers comes out and talk to the youth and do psychological first aid to see if they need referrals to Spindletop, a Beaumont crisis center.”

Businesses that are interested becoming a “Safe Place” location undergo training with a case manager.

“There is a screening process,” Richard said. “Anyone who owns a business can apply to become a designated Safe Place. I worked with Tina and Joseph Nero (of Village of Faith) on Thursday, and I went over the types of scenarios. Like if a child were to come, there are steps to follow,” Richard said. “Begin by getting the youth calm. If they have family members, contact them unless the youth said they are escaping the parents. Then CPS will be contacted. There is always someone available at The Children’s Center for a ‘Safe Place’ designee to contact.”

Area residents can help at-risk youths by becoming a “Host Home.”

“The host homes are families who would like to take in the youth from one to three months,” Richard said. “If a youth has run away from home and we were contacted by a Safe Place and discover there is nowhere else for the child to go, then the host home is a placement for the child to go while they are waiting to go to permanent placement. Host home participants have access to resources to help care for the youth as well.”

To register your business or learn more about Project Safe Place, call 409-765-5212.

Village of Faith

Tina and Joseph Nero are the lead pastors of Village Faith Church and chose the church to designate a “Safe Place” to make sure youth are protected.

“I work with children every day,” Tina Nero said. “And a lot of the students I have now are displaced from their original families and are under CPS care. We encounter children every day that had to be removed from an unsafe environment and had to be placed somewhere because sometimes an environment can be safe, but the child doesn’t feel safe. And so, ensuring that they are in an environment, they’re safe, and they feel safe.

“The Children’s Center and I both share the same focus. And so, after speaking with Dr. Andrea, we thought it would be a good idea to collaborate and would love to be a part of being able to provide a safe place.”

Before meeting with Richard, it has always been my passion to have a woman and Children’s Shelter, Nero said.

“The opportunity to become a safe place kind of coincides with that,” she said. “As a community, we need to do more collaborations because there’s so many organizations out there, with so many other resources, and we’d be much stronger and better benefit to our community if we joined forces for the greater good.”

Nero said her passion for helping others comes from the environment she grew up in.

She was the youngest of eight.

“Growing up in a big family, one of the things I saw was my parents always opened their home to extended family, friends or other people who were in a different environment than what I grew up in,” Nero said.

There was a mentality that it doesn’t matter what you have, you always have enough to share.

Nero’s mother raised her brothers and sisters because their mother died when the youngest was 7.

“I’ve had cousins and friends move into our home,” she said. “People come in when they need to find safety and to find resources. It’s kind of how I was raised. What I know is to help those in need and protect other people. I quickly learned that everybody didn’t have a house like I had.

“We had food. My parents provided stability, love and safety. I didn’t have to worry when I went to sleep at night or went to take a bath or be afraid or concerned that I was going to have a home. I learned everybody didn’t have that. And so, I want to be a part of helping continue what I grew up seeing day-in and day-out and providing for others a safe place.”

Village of Faith also partners with Southeast Texas apartment complexes to deliver resources to area tenants.

“There are over 36 apartment complexes in the Golden Triangle that we partner with,” she said. “And we go out almost every day to different complexes to deliver meals. We bring other resources like clothing, additional food supplies and remind them they aren’t alone. We pray, encourage, equip and empower them so that they can be successful.”