"How did this start? Are there similar projects elsewhere?"This project is part of the Santa Cruz Community Safety Workgroup. At a time when California cities are cutting back on police services, people are looking to their own communities for help. Unlike other neighborhood groups focused on crime and police, this project is focused on giving communities and individuals the tools they need to provide for their own safety and security.
For several years, people within the radical community have been looking for ways to make our communities safer. In August, we hosted a BBQ and discussion and invited people from far and wide to brainstorm ways to provide safety and security without relying on police. In that discussion, one person suggested that people could put a colored light on their porches to indicate that the house is a safe space to go in an emergency. They had seen a similar project in Eugene, Oregon. Since then we've discovered similar project elsewhere.
"Who takes advantage of the Blue Light Project? What neighborhoods need it most?"People in our communities, especially those in vulnerable populations, sometimes need a place where they can stop for a brief time to seek help or safety, make a phone call, wait for a ride, or rest for a moment. For example, female-bodied people or youth walking alone at night, people escaping intimate violence, queer or trans people who've been threatened, or elderly people who need a brief rest might feel supported to have a house in their neighborhood where they know they can find a temporary safe space. Since violence is not isolated to "poor" neighborhoods, particularly intimate and domestic violence, we feel every neighborhood in town can benefit by having nearby blue light houses.
"How do people find out about the project? How do people find a blue light house?"We let people know about the project through fliers, online, and by talking to friends. As people walk around in their neighborhoods, they'll see Blue Light Houses, get to know them, and know that, should they ever need it, there is a safe place for them to go as a temporary safe space. People can list their Blue Light Houses on the website, and will be able to mark it on an online map.
"How many blue light houses are there?So far, in this new project there are only a handful of blue light houses, and we are getting regular inquiries. You can find a list and an online map of blue light houses that have chosen to list their location.
What kind of people do it?"So far, the project has mostly attracted people who live in collective houses. many of these people are already focused on making their homes safer spaces where women, queer, trans, and people of color can feel safe in an often hostile world. However, we hope to see all sorts of people in all sorts of places in their lives hosting blue light houses. The project hopes to eventually have Blue Light Houses in every neighborhood in town, so one would never have far to go in case of an emergency or need.
"How do houses become blue light houses?"The Blue Light Safety Project is a decentralized do-it-yourself project. If people are inspired by the idea and see the merits of safe spaces in their neighborhood, they can become a Blue Light House. People determine for themselves how much they are comfortable offering strangers who come to their house for help. Some houses may only offer a porch to sit on until someone feels safe enough to continue on. Other houses may even offer food or shelter.
"Are blue light house hosts trained or certified?"This is not another county service staffed by highly-trained career professionals nor an administrative agency. There is no approval or certification process. Minimal training, if any, is needed. Rather, this is about taking responsibility for our own safety and creating direct one-on-one relationships with ones community. With this project, we hope to be a spark that will spurn people to take action to create safety at a community level in their neighborhoods.
"What kind of support do hosts get from the project?"In general, we envision the Blue Light Project as a decentralized do-it-yourself effort. We don't want to be administrators, though we are excited to provide a spark of inspiration to people are interested in making their neighborhoods safer.
That said, the project tries to support blue light houses however we can. We can provide hosts with lists of community resources, a basic guide for guests, and a guide for hosts at Blue Light Houses.
"How do people know that a strange house is indeed safe, that they can really trust this place?"There is no guarantee that just because someone puts a blue light on their porch that they will be good or skillful hosts. However, if someone were to use the blue light inappropriately, the community would soon be aware of the address of the house and would insist on accountability.
"What happens if a person hosting a blue light house has problems with a visitor?"We have drafted a Guide to Hosting a Blue Light House which is available on the website. In the Guide we offer suggestions to make Blue Light hosts feel comfortable, knowledgeable, and prepared. Principally, we encourage hosts at Blue Light Houses is know what their limits are and how much help they are willing to offer before they become a Blue Light host.
We encourage people to trust their instincts when someone requests help and to offer only what they are comfortable with. We suggest that hosts make sure they have backup and good communication within their own house. Another suggestion is to get to know other Blue Light Houses in your neighborhood, so you could call for help if needed. Having backup covers most of the common issues we could see arising.
Of course, is is possible to come up with even more extreme "What If" possibilities. But practically speaking, most people respond with kindness to kindness. Most of us encounter murderers and serial killers only in television and movies. We want to proceed as if we live in a world where offering kindness to strangers feels like the norm, not a high-risk endeavor.
"Why don't people just get to know all of their neighbors? Why is this necessary?"Of course, personal relationships with your neighbors are always more valuable and more fruitful than any program or project. Part of the idea of this project is to make participation very simple, to lower the threshold for people who want to form those relationships, but don't know where or how to start in their often disconnected lives. Additionally, we hope the blue lights are helpful to people who may just be passing through a neighborhood, one in which they do not already have relationships.
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