There are all sorts of reasons to love Starbucks — from their pumpkin spice lattes to the fact that you can typically find about three per city block — but now, you can add a new reason to that list: Starbucks is turning 97 Seattle locations into LGBT Safe Places, with the help of Seattle Police Department's Safe Place program. This means that employees at these locations will receive special training on LGBTQ-related issues, including how to support those targeted for LGBTQ-related hate crimes. Go Starbucks!
The Safe Place initiative was started by Jim Ritter, a gay man and cop who has served with the Seattle Police Department for over 30 years and who currently acts as the department's liaison to the LGBTQ community. The program aims to fight bigotry and hate crimes by teaching businesses how to be better LGBTQ allies, including teaching employees how to respond to anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, which have been increasing slightly in Seattle lately. So far, every business that Ritter has approached regarding the program has signed on. And now Starbucks is getting on board, too, meaning employees at 97 of their Seattle locations will undergo training.
"We don’t have roving bands of people assaulting LBGTQ people as we did in the '80s,” Ritter told The Seattle Times, but added that "the crimes are predatory, they’re picking somebody out of the herd. [The perpetrators are] cowards for the most part. … They’re opportunistic, they do their damage and leave. They like operating in the shadows and Safe Place eliminates a lot of those shadows.”
Starbucks has a long history of being friendly to LGBTQ causes. In fact, the company was one of many that petitioned the Supreme Court to adopt marriage equality earlier this year, before the court handed down their pro-marriage equality ruling. Starbucks also has a history of partnering with Seattle community groups, such as the YMCA, in the past.
“We’re already a part of our customers’ lives and … this is another way to be part of the community,” Heather Jennings, Starbucks’ regional director for the Seattle metro area, told Seattle Times. “Anyone who needs a place to go to feel safe, to call the police, we want to be there for them.”
It would be great if Starbucks could implement similar programs in all their stores nationwide, but since the details of how best to respond to anti-LGBT hate crimes will vary based on location, that's probably not possible at this time. Still, 97 stores is a lot, and it's a good start.
Over 2,000 Starbucks employees are undergoing training with the Safe Place program, with the final sessions finishing up this week.