About 45 years ago, women’s advocates in Austin saw a need to support women in the community who had experienced sexual and domestic violence. As a result, the Austin Rape Crisis Center and the Center for Battered Women opened their doors. One of the first in the nation, The Center for Battered Women received national acclaim as a leading program to offer safety for abused women and their children. Over time, both agencies expanded their services to better address the ever-growing needs of the community and, in 1998, combined forces as SafePlace to help more survivors, their families and the Austin/Travis County community. SafePlace became a unified source of hope for women, children, and men affected by sexual and domestic violence. The agency continues to be nationally recognized as a leader for its innovative and effective programs.
Meanwhile, in 1984, a group of concerned citizens joined together to do something about the lack of shelter space for abused and neglected children in Austin and Travis County; thus the Austin-Travis County Shelter for Infants and Children was born. The new shelter was able to house six young children at a time. In 1998, a second shelter home was opened next door to the existing home, enabling the agency to care for 30 children at a time. The name was changed to the Austin Children’s Shelter. In 2009, Austin Children’s Shelter celebrated its 25th anniversary and held a grand opening of the new Rathgeber Village facilities, including five cottages and the capacity to care for up to 78 children. Over the next several years:
- People’s Community Clinic began to provide an in-house medical program.
- Teen Parent and Transitional Living programs were added.
- Austin Children’s Shelter youth began attending the George M. Kozmetsky School on the SafePlace campus.
- Austin Children’s Shelter was licensed as a child placement agency and began Foster in Austin in July 2013.
- Strong Start, a child abuse prevention agency, became a program of Austin Children’s Shelter.
What started as a small emergency shelter for a few children blossomed into a full-service campus with a wide suite of services.
In 2015, Austin Children’s Shelter and SafePlace began intensive discussions about how, together, they might better address the complex issues of violence and abuse. It began in a structured alliance, with both agencies maintaining separate nonprofit corporate statuses and distinct lines of services. However, as sexual assault and exploitation, child abuse and neglect, and domestic and family violence are part of a larger interconnected web, the two agencies’ programs and services began to meld more closely. The sum quickly became greater than its parts. A true merger was undertaken and SAFE came into existence.
With an annual budget of more than $20 million, more than 350 employees and thousands of volunteers, SAFE now has prevention and crisis programs operating across multiple campuses and in the schools, hospitals, courts, county and District Attorney’s offices.
In 2021, SAFE became fully accredited by the Council on Accreditation, meaning that SAFE is recognized as following best practices in service delivery, human resources, training, finance, risk management, compliance and quality improvement, supervision, administration and board governance. Becoming accredited also means that we will meet regulatory requirements for continuation funding, that new funding opportunities may also be available to SAFE, and that we are committed to continue improving as an organization.
As SAFE, we are drawing a line in the sand in Austin. We are committed to ending violence and abuse, and our community stands with us. Together, we can stop abuse for everyone.