MOUNT DORA, Fla. — Mount Dora businesses are preparing to join a new Safe Place Initiative.

What You Need To Know

  • Leaders in Mount Dora voted Tuesday night to move forward with the Safe Space Initiative  

  • The police-led program will provide safety information and safe places in the city for LGBTQ+ individuals

  • Local businesses will be trained to help in the event of a hate crime, especially against the LGBTQ community

  • Learn more about the program

At Tuesday night's Mount Dora City Council meeting, leaders voted unanimously to move forward with the initiative, which will provide safety information and safe places throughout the city for LGBTQ+ individuals. Victims of crime will be able to turn to those resources for help.

Henry Ollendick, who has lived in Mount Dora for 10 years, has watched his community grow.

"I definitely feel Mount Dora is a welcoming community," said Ollendick, who owns the nature-inspired gift shop Papilo. "That’s why I chose to live here."

While Ollendick feels safe, he knows that might not be the case for everyone. Data from the U.S. Justice Department show that hate crimes toward the LGBTQ+ community are vastly underreported.

Ollendick said he believes in his city, there’s a push for inclusivity.

"I do feel like Mount Dora leads Lake County when it comes to any LGBTQ issues," he said.

Mount Dora Police are working out the details of the training for local businesses, as well as how to best support the community as this program moves forward.

Ollendick said he plans to participate in the new Safe Space Initiative.

"I think this is a step in the right direction," he said. "I feel that once the LGBTQ+ community feels safe in reporting incidents and crimes that happen to them, we will be able to better measure the amount of hate crimes that are occurring in our area."

He said as more anti-LGBTQ+ policies pass in the State of Florida, he’s happy his local government is doing what they can to continue having an inclusive environment and hopes the rest of the county follows suit.

Mount Dora business owners interested in participating in the program can click here for more information.