Three places in Houston have signed up so far to offer safe places for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questionning (LGBTQ) community should they be a victim of a crime or have a fear for their safety.
Called the Safe Place Program, it was first conceived of in Seattle, was introduced in Vancouver by the Vancouver Police Department in 2016 and has now been brought to Houston by the Houston RCMP detachment.
Agencies, organizations or businesses who sign up as participants not only offer a safe place but will also call for the police on behalf of the person or persons seeking a safe place.
In addition to the detachment itself, taking part so far is the Houston Health Centre, Houston Secondary School, Pharmasave.
That the program should be introduced in a small northern community shouldn’t be a surprise, said Houston RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Jason Burndred.
“We are a police service for the entire community and if this is a service that can help people, then that’s what we should do,” he said.
The sergeant called the program a natural extension of any of the work the detachment’s members do to serve the community.
The safe place concept extends to witnesses of a crime against a member of the LGBTQ community should they also require police to attend, Burndred said.
“What we’re doing is providing a service,” he added.
Burndred said the inclusion of Houston Secondary School as a safe place would be considered a follow through of the school system’s own anti-bullying campaigns.
Those who agree to take part in the program sign an agreement they will provide a safe place and receive a rainbow-coloured decal to put on a window or outside door.
Eryn Collins of the Northern Health Authority said having the Houston Health Centre act as a safe place follows on its core operating philosophy.
“We would want our facilities to be a safe place for everyone,” she said.
The Houston RCMP detahcment could very well be just the second RCMP detachment in the province to participate in the program.
The Prince Rupert RCMP detachment signed on in January and media reports at the time indicated it was the first such community in Canada to have a Safe Place program sponsored by the national police force.