Downtown now has a fleet of friendly ambassadors

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Downtown Ambassador Steve Hillard speaks during a press event joined by Salt Lake City Mayor, Jackie Biskupski and City Council Chair, Erin Mendenhall. Photo by Isaac Riddle.

Visitors to downtown Salt Lake City will have a new resource.  On Thursday, city officials and representatives from the Downtown Alliance announced the Downtown Ambassador Program, a program that will deploy as many as a dozen ambassadors to major pedestrian thoroughfares throughout the year to field questions, create a more welcoming city center and help facilitate services for homeless individuals.

“We love the evolution we have seen downtown, but there are still challenges,” said Judy Cullen, the marketing director for the Squatters Pub and Wasatch Breweries. “The timing of these ambassadors is wonderful.”

Streetplus will run the ambassador program that is modeled after their programs in larger cities like New York and Chicago.  The current fleet of ambassadors consists of four employees that are available to offer information and be another set of eyes downtown.  The fleet is “on patrol” six days a week from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.   By the summer the fleet will nearly triple in size and will be active on the street all week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.  The ambassadors will be an active presence in the downtown core, the area bounded by 400 South to North Temple and 200 East to 300 West.

“They are there to be the eyes and ears,” said Camille Winnie, director of community services at the Downtown Alliance.  “We want them to be mobile; we want them to be visible and stand out.”

To make the ambassadors stand out, staff wear bright yellow shirts and black pants that were selected not only to be conspicuous but as a nod to bees in a beehive, the state’s symbol.  The uniforms also include an “ask me for information” tag and the Downtown Alliance logo.

“People already call us the bumble bees,” said Downtown Ambassador, Madison Norris.

According to Norris, people are already utilizing the ambassadors, especially around City Creek and the TRAX Stations.  Norris spent several months before the uniformed program launched serving as an unofficial ambassador downtown and has developed a rapport with many of the area’s downtown homeless.

The ambassadors are charged with not only helping people navigate downtown but to also help connect the area’s chronically homeless to needed services.  Two of the four ambassadors have social service experience and are charged with leading the homeless outreach.

While on patrol, staff will carry backpacks that serve as portable information stations and have literature for various downtown locations.  Staff also use GeoPal, a field management app, to communicate with each other, document interactions and create heat maps that document areas of high activity.

In addition foot patrol, ambassadors are also available at their 324 South State Street office.

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About Isaac Riddle 665 Articles
Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.