Becoming A Certified SafeSpace

As a leader in the student housing space, it’s important for the Preiss Company to operate properties in ways which allow our residents to feel comfortable with their surroundings. We believe that our residents should be able to fully express themselves without fear of harm and with knowledge that they will be heard. Unfortunately, many of our residents who are a part of marginalized communities do not feel that way, and recently one of our properties has taken the lead to help with that initiative.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Austin West Campus staff members to dive deeper into what it takes to become a Safe Space, and how positively it can impact not only the property, but the community around it.

To be completely honest, living in Raleigh, I am extremely familiar with the Safe Spaces sticker and what exactly it represents. While it did start initially as an LGBTQ+ initiative, it has expanded to help and assist any kind of hate crime. If anyone is experiencing a dangerous or harmful situation, a certified Safe Space is there to be a place of refuge, where staff members of a place of work are trained to aid and support those who might feel unsafe.

Typically, these Safe Spaces are small retail businesses or even restaurants. So, how did the Austin West Campus Properties find the inspiration to become a Safe Space? The staff informed me that originally, it was an initiative of the Rainbow Coalition Group in our DEI Council to demonstrate inclusivity. After seeing so many Safe Space stickers around Austin, TX themselves, and having spoken on it in the council, they felt inspired to specifically take action. Signature 1909, Axis West Campus, and Villas/Venue on Guadalupe are officially the first and only apartment complexes in all of Austin, TX to become a certified Safe Space. Talk about making history!

So…becoming a Safe Space. Let’s talk about it. Many would assume that the training to become certified would be hard to come by, and would take months or longer to go through. However, I was informed otherwise! The team explained that all they had to do was reach out to their local sheriff’s department to receive the training materials. The training was only a few hours, and the whole staff partook. The department even provided training packets for new employees to review upon hire. They were then sent stickers to put on windows, allowing pedestrians to recognize their apartment as a Safe Space. It was actually that easy. 

This kind of certification benefits all, as it is truly a win-win situation. “Everyone learned from it,” explained Amanda Vinka, Property Manager at Axis West Campus. “While it’s unrealistic to say you can keep everyone safe all the time, this lets people know that we are inclusive and will give no judgement for whatever they have going on in their life.” They went on to share that while thankfully they have not needed to use their training, they can tell residents and the community alike appreciate the effort to become safe for their community. People who come in often will comment on it or point as they walk down the street, giving recognition to an extremely important cause. “We often get a bad rep about wanting only money or leases,” Candice Stricklin said, “and this was just something so positive that has nothing to do with leasing, and I am really proud of that. We are truly a part of our community now. 

While this is a fabulous step in the right direction, the work does not stop here. I spoke with Martin Montalvo, a part-time leasing agent at Axis West Campus. “This is one great step to help the cause it stands behind, and we can draw inspiration to not only educate our staff members on this, but our residents, too. This will make our community a safer place to live.”

Do you feel inspired? I sure do! Congrats to the Austin West Properties staff, not only for striving and achieving at making your community a safer place to live, but for making history in the city of Austin, TX. If you are interested in making YOUR property a certified Safe Space, make sure to reach out to your city’s Sherriff’s department for more information to see if this is a possibility for your community. Let’s all work together as a company to make our world a better place!

SafeSpace is a youth-led, mental health-focused organization that empowers young people to engage openly with their local schools and communities. We create and implement initiatives to change the conversation around mental health by educating and encouraging our peers to speak up, support others, and seek help when needed.

Check out more resources at their website below