Since 2007, nearly 12,000 Minnesotans have been protected from abusive exes, stalkers, and others who’d do them harm by an innovative and effective — but still, unbelievably, largely little-known — address-confidentiality program.

Called Safe at Home, the state-run program assigns anyone who feels vulnerable or unsafe an alternative and anonymous P.O. Box, keeping their real address out of public records. The program confidentially sends participants’ mail to their actual addresses. In addition to the mail-forwarding service, their legal-in-every-way P.O. Box addresses can be used instead of their actual addresses for everything from registering to vote and getting a driver’s license to applying for a passport.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon highlighted the program, which is run out of his office, in a column last week distributed statewide, including to the News Tribune Opinion page. The News Tribune has previously editorialized in praise and encouragement of the proven-effective Safe at Home initiative.

“Minnesota has one of the country’s most comprehensive (address-confidentiality) programs because it extends to the private sector, and it does not restrict enrollment to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking like other programs do,” Simon wrote, his commentary pegged to last week’s 40th anniversary of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. “Although a large share of people enroll in Safe at Home because of domestic violence, the program is open to any Minnesota resident who has an extreme safety need, including to people whose safety concerns relate to their profession.”

While Minnesota’s may be more comprehensive, address-confidentiality programs exist now in nearly 40 states. As Simon pointed out, “Minnesota has made protecting victims of crime, and potential victims of crime, a priority.” The nation’s first domestic violence shelter was established here, in St. Paul, in 1979. Unlike many states, Minnesota also has a Crime Victims Bill of Rights on its books.

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Despite all that, too many Minnesotans, in particular those fleeing abuse, domestic violence, stalking, or someone who makes them feel unsafe — and who are in need of the safety and protection of not being able to be easily found — are unaware of Safe at Home. That’s another reason Simon wrote his commentary. It’s the reason for this editorial. In spite of all the good Safe at Home has done in nearly a decade and a half and counting, and in spite of the thousands who have been protected, awareness of Safe at Home remains a necessity.

If you or someone you know needs the confidentiality and privacy of an alternate address, don’t hesitate to contact the Safe at Home office at 1-866-723-3035 or by email at safe.athome@state.mn.us. The program’s website is sos.state.mn.us/safe-at-home/.

“A confidential address (is) a tool of protection against the person they fear,” Simon wrote.

It may not be the only tool, but it can be an effective one — if Minnesotans know about it first in order to use it.