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Candace Kinney, peer support specialist, stands beside the Safe Place van. The outreach van allows staff to provide mobile support to youth in need.

A new program being implemented in Rowan County has offered support to Morehead State students being affected by changes in campus operations due to COVID-19.

Moving Mountains Youth Outreach Program is a new program established by Mountain Comprehensive Care Center that focuses on providing emergency street services to runaway and homeless youth and youth in need up to age 21.

“Our mission is to ensure that youth across eastern Kentucky are given the opportunity to have essential care items, community connection, and a safe place to go in order to obtain a warm meal and shower,” said Sara Beth Lowe, program coordinator for Moving Mountains.

Lowe also serves as program coordinator for Rowan Safe Place and case manager at Mountain Comprehensive Care Center.

“Our job at Moving Mountains is to meet youth where they are while respecting and appreciating who they are. I think now more than ever we will need to remind one another of human kindness and compassion. What better way to do so than to help out the young adults working so hard to earn a higher education and better themselves and their communities,” Lowe said regarding Morehead State students.

MSU will remain open with limited staffing in each office to serve students. It is closed to the general public and any non-employee until April 3. Courses are only offered online until the end of the spring semester.

“I think the community would be shocked to know the amount of homeless students residing on campus. Many of these students think of their dorms as home, because one the semester ends, they have nowhere else to turn. Even if they have someone to stay with, they still face issues such as food shortages,” Lowe said.

There will soon be a location for youth who need assistance, which will be near the St. Claire Regional Outpatient Center off US 60, anticipated to open this Spring.

Currently, the Safe Place outreach van allows staff to provide mobile support until a brick and mortar location can be established.

“At our soon-to-be open drop-in center, we will have access to basic needs, but also give youth the opportunity to apply for jobs, receive life skills, and develop community connections necessary to becoming happy, independent adults,” Lowe said.

The program most recently provided winter necessities to those in need, and is currently transitioning to warm weather needs.

Lowe said the program is grant funded, but also relies heavily on community donations. She said anyone who wishes to donate can find their Amazon Wishlist by visiting the Mountain Haven/Rowan Safe Place Facebook page.

“The two greatest ways our community can support the program is to donate and/or spread the word,” she said.

Lowe added that local businesses can also help by becoming a registered Safe Place location.

Safe Place is a national program which partners with the local organization to provide safe locations in Rowan County for youth to enter and receive help.

Lowe says becoming a Safe Place location involves a one-time $50 payment for signage, a brief training, and background checks which are provided for free.

To receive services or request more information, please call the 24/7 hotline (606) 207-0916 and speak with a trained youth support worker.

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