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Lakewood rolls out new safety net for LGBTQ+ community

Posted at 9:17 AM, May 25, 2023

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — The front window of Brandon Hall's Lakewood business, Decent Shape, has a Pride flag and a sticker that reads ‘All Are Welcome.’

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For members of the city’s LGBTQ+ community, it sends a clear message.

"It's a very simple gesture but is very meaningful to a lot of people to have that," Hall said.

Hall prides himself on his efforts to create a fitness community for everyone.

"Everything we've done here in terms of the environment and in terms of our approach to training is meant to be inclusive," Hall said.

But the strength training studio owner will soon have a chance to up his efforts through a new initiative called "Safe Place."

"I think it'll have a lot of support here in Lakewood," Hall said.

Participating businesses will get training from police to help them create a comfortable environment for members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been the victims of crimes.

"The crimes that we get aren't necessarily hate crimes, but the statistic is, it's under-reported," said Ariana Zuk with Lakewood Police.

A rainbow sticker on windows throughout the city will let people know the locations where they can safely contact police.

"Bridging that gap of miscommunication and the mistrust and opening up the lines of communication where we can, we can have a better relationship, a more trusting relationship," Zuk said.

Lakewood Mayor Meghan George said even though this program uses a popular symbol of gay pride, the safety net extends to everyone.

“Data shows that members of the LGBTQ+ community are typically most vulnerable to victims of hate crimes, but it's anyone who's been a victim of harassment or bullying," George said.

And unfortunately, Hall said, given the current climate LGBTQ people are living in, something like Safe Place is needed.

"The Guardians posted on Twitter the other day, like they're doing Pride Night later in June, just go look at some of the replies to a simple gesture, just like welcoming people to the ballpark. There's a lot of negativity out there," Hall said.

It's negativity that Hall wants to knock out. He said he is not going to give a second thought to placing the Safe Place sticker in his window.

"I think everything I've heard about is so far, it definitely aligns with everything that we're about as a business, so I'll be proud to have it in our window here," Hall said.

Studio West 117 is the first business in Lakewood to post the Safe Space sticker.

The staff there told News 5 they hope this new initiative will help bridge the divide between Lakewood Police and the LGBTQ+ community.