“Who’s keeping an eye on us right now?” I asked the Valley Cities’ staff while standing in front of their building on the corner of Rainier Avenue and Cloverdale. The group scanned all four corners. The New Star Mini Mart was fenced off in preparation for new construction, ATS High School (formerly South Lake) in the distance behind a row of tree and the cars in their parking lot, a boarded up building on the NW corner and Medhane-Alem Evangelical Church behind it with small translucent stained glass windows, and Valley Cities with the blinds understandably drawn to protect the privacy of their clients. 

“No one’s keeping an eye on us” the staffers responded.

“That’s right. There is almost no visibility on this corner, especially at night; and seeing other people is part of what makes us feel safe.”

RBAC recently conducted neighborhood safety assessments at two Rainier Beach organizations – Valley Cities, which offers mental health services to the community, and Kaju Fit Club, which offers martial arts classes for young people. Neighborhood safety assessments are one of the resources RBAC offers to organizations in the neighborhood. 

During a neighborhood safety assessment, we walk through a building and around the exterior considering the space from a public safety perspective. Can people see one another when looking in and out of this space? What does this space communicate about what’s okay and not okay to do here? Is it clear for others how to use this space? What’s preventing people from going into places they’re not supposed to go? These are some of the questions we consider as we conduct our site assessment and offer ideas.

“Would you be open to having the Corner Greeters set up on your corner?” I asked the Valley Cities staff. “They could set up a tent, some tables and chairs right here. It would definitely solve this corner’s visibility problem. Plus, they’d beautify the space, there’d be some activities going on, and there’d be food and resources available for the community. Your team could join us and provide resources too!”

“Sounds great.”

At the end of the day, our goal during these assessments is not to give these organizations a public safety grade or a laundry list of things they should change. Our goals are to teach the concepts of creating safe neighborhood spaces, and to connect people with resources and neighborhood partners who can help. 

We are now scheduling free safety assessments for Rainier Beach organizations. To schedule an assessment, email stew@rbactioncoalition.org. Our team will come by for an hour, teach some principles of creating safe spaces while walking through your space, and connect you with neighborhood resources who can help. You’ll get a free ‘Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible’ sign too! Don’t delay.