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Life Safety officers help Haven for Hope's campus feel safe

Officers are armed, have each been through 40-hour crisis intervention training

SAN ANTONIO – Haven for Hope's population of 1,700 is equivalent to that of some small towns. At 22 acres, the campus gives its Life Safety officers a lot of area to cover, protecting clients, staff and guests.

Tracy King, a resident at Haven for Hope, said it wasn't until she moved inside Haven's walls that she finally felt safe.

"Sleeping under bridges and stuff like that, you don't have any security," King said. "You don't know what may happen to you overnight. Here they have security that's walking constantly."

The people in charge of keeping King and the other residents safe are Haven for Hope's Life Safety security.

Art Vela, the director of Life Safety, said that with up to 1,700 people on campus at one time, including clients, staff and visitors, they are prepared for the challenges of helping people who sometimes may not want to help themselves.

"We have 1,700 people here, and a lot of folks are having some issues or are suffering from mental illness," Vela said. "There is that possibility where clients may try to hurt themselves, but our officers are trained to recognize that and to respond to it."

Vela said his 40 Level-3 Life Safety officers are armed and have been through 40-hour crisis intervention training.

What's almost as important as the officers getting crisis intervention training is that they have compassion, and that they treat their clients with respect.

"Homelessness can happen to anybody," Vela said. "People, when they're little, they don't say, 'When I grow up, I want to be homeless.' Homelessness is just a symptom of something else that's occurred in their life."

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