A little-known community-based resource, the Salt Lake City Downtown Ambassador Program, was recently expanded to help make North Temple and surrounding businesses and communities safer.
Ambassador Program Operator Jared Arvanitas describes the purpose of the ambassador program as threefold: to answer questions from visitors about what to do and where to go in downtown SLC; to provide an additional level of safety; and to act as eyes and ears for the homeless population to ensure they are aware of service providers and where to get a warm bed or hot meal.
The ambassadors are also trained at administering naloxone to prevent drug overdose, said Arvanitas, noting that this substance has helped save hundreds of lives within the ambassador program’s boundaries.
According to Josh Jones of SLC Downtown Alliance, workers have assisted 14,275 people with quality-of-life concerns, answered 7,497 citizen questions, checked with merchants 5,941 times and made 4,278 social services referrals since the program’s inception.
The program was started in 2018 and expanded to North Temple in April, 2022. It models similar programs that have been successful in larger cities like Chicago, and is managed by the SLC Downtown Alliance with city support and utilizes 24 trained and uniformed workers to walk designated corridors which include the Smith’s Ballpark area from 700 South to 1700 South and 200 East to 700 West; Rio Grande Street from 200 South to 500 South; the downtown area from South Temple to 500 South and from 300 East to 400 West; and North Temple from 400 West to 1000 West, including a gratuity service along two blocks north and south of North Temple.
The ambassadors work in pairs to provide safety, hospitality and social services in their designated areas, said Arvanitas. They get to know local business owners and their areas of concern, and they also provide outreach to the homeless population, he said, noting that up to six ambassadors work along North Temple from 8:30am to 5pm every day except Sunday.
The impact has already been noticed by locals. “I think it is a great program,” said Fairpark area resident David Osokow. “The ambassadors are a very good set of eyes for our neighborhood and help make our community safer.”
If local representation has its way, residents like Osokow may see even more programs like it. “The ambassador program has been successful insomuch as it was limited in its design,” said District 1 Councilmember Victoria Petro-Eschler, who notes a potential for expansion and improvement.
“The ambassadors faithfully contact those experiencing homelessness and distress, attempt to offer resources and relay concerns to the appropriate authorities as needed. However, they are only part of the solution. There is by no means a comprehensive strategy for addressing all the interventions North Temple needs. One of my focuses is to gather data and provide further improvements on North Temple.”