Red River District venues and nearby nonprofits are hosting an event to bring together the music community and local businesses and nonprofits to talk about the increased violence in the music district and what safety measures are available. Safer Venues Fest, founded by Adrienne Lake of Heard Entertainment, comes in light of the recent increase in gun violence in the district and will cover the resources available for everyone in that community to feel safer. The event is slated for Saturday, Sept. 7.
Led by the Red River Cultural District, a consortium of venues and businesses in the area, and the SIMS Foundation, a nonprofit that serves the mental health needs of the music community, the Safer Venues Fest will host panel discussions around safety as well as local nonprofit-business partnerships.
“We see this as a pilot – a first step for ongoing work,” Cody Cowan, executive director of Red River Cultural District said. “Maintaining safe spaces and community takes vigilance and hard work, as well as regular staff trainings.”
About a year ago the SIMS Foundation rolled out the Music Venue Training Program, intended to provide information and skills around conflict resolution, interpersonal communication, and more. The goal was to break the stigma that surrounds mental health issues, sexual misconduct, and substance abuse.
“Every night, venue staff are exposed to so many social ills,” Patsy Dolan Bouressa, executive director of the SIMS Foundation said. “They see many individuals suffering from homelessness and the criminals that prey upon them. They witness individuals grappling with mental health and substance abuse issues and more. Together with the venues, SIMS is striving to ensure that we all can continue to enjoy music in a safe environment for many decades to come.”
The SIMS Foundation is not the only organization offering specialized training. The nonprofit Front Steps, which operates the ARCH under city contract, will provide an additional training titled “Safety: Working Downtown and Encountering Homelessness”. Front Steps is located in the heart of the Red River District and hopes to share their skills and expertise about handling situations with individuals experience homelessness to staff, musicians, and patrons of the community.
“Stubbs BBQ is the reason we are getting involved (with the event),” said Amy Price, director of development and communications at Front Steps said. “Ryan Garrett, the general manager at Stubbs, looked around one day and realized the only people around at 3 a.m. were his people, our people and the homeless. Instead of assuming we were the problem, Ryan decided to come over and see how Stubbs can help.”
“I think everyone in our community plays a role in making our community safer,” Bouressa said. “I hope the new knowledge will spur everyone on to either learn more or to take action through volunteering and sharing their new knowledge with others.”
PHOTO: Stubbs general manager Ryan Garrett (fourth from right) and Front Steps executive director Greg McCormack (to his right) with some of their employees preparing to hand out frozen water to people living on the streets. Contributed by Front Steps.
NOTE: A version of this article appeared in the August 25, 2020, Austin American-Statesman.