Community Ambassadors Program

Video transcript

Adrienne Pon, former OCEIA Executive Director: The Community Ambassadors Program started in the Bayview, when  there was a problem in 2010 that escalated to a point where the community just wasn't going to take it anymore. The City couldn't do this by itself without the cooperation of our community partners. We're talking about: CBOs, the police department, everyday people on the street, people that want to see their streets and neighborhood safe and clean. When we started the Community Ambassadors Program, the emphasis really was on a non-uniform safety presence, so people know that they can rely on somebody that will help them, assist them to get off and on the bus, and get safe passage to their houses. They’re residents of the community.  So the Ambassadors play such an important role because they are trusted individuals, they are the bridge between the community and the City.

Jennifer Barrera, former Mid-Market Team Ambassador: Our main role is to promote safety and to engage the community. So we report any crime in the street, we assist merchants, we [help the] homeless if they need any help,  we inform the community about the resources that the City offers for San Francisco residents.

Alton Moore, former Chinatown Team Ambassador: We get the opportunity to keep the streets looking clean. So if there's graffiti, if there [is] drug paraphernalia, if there is anything that is unsafe, we report it to the proper officials and they get the individuals out there to take care of the problem. Even getting an individual in a situation where they're trying to get off drugs, or they're trying to get off alcohol, we point them in the direction to go to a particular place where they might, you know, get the assistance or the help they need. And it's not just about giving information, it's not just about pointing them in the right direction, it's about understanding who they are so that you know what you're dealing with, how to deal with them, and then get them the information needed in order to make their lives better 

Jennifer Barrera: We do a lot of wellness checks. Sometimes, some people in the streets are sleeping, sometimes we wake them up just to make sure they are breathing, we tell them: “do you want to go to a shelter?” and if they say yes, we call 3-1-1 and [help them] apply to a 90-day shelter. And from that, they will be able to get case management. If they want to look for a job or something… We also like to visit the merchant and make sure that they're doing great, and they don't have any complaints.

Alton Moore: So we work with almost every aspect of a community. Whether it's education, law enforcement, homelessness, business, maintenance, sanitation, we help people every day, you know. And it's beautiful because you never know what the day is going to bring and it's constantly something different.

Adrienne Pon: To stay and be an Ambassador, you have to go through about 30 sessions of training. Everything from police academy basics, to de-escalation, how to work with and talk to diverse communities, about half of our crew is bilingual. They speak a total of eight different languages. You have to know how to be competent in communicating either culturally or linguistically with the many different people that you're going to come across in the City. You have to know a lot about City programs and services, extensive knowledge about where to send people, where to refer people. You have to know about community-based organizations, or if someone needs help with their citizenship papers, or they are undocumented and they're afraid to seek services, they have to trust somebody in this City and it's the Community Ambassadors through their extensive training and their heart that really draws people to interact with the City.

Ricky Vedilago, former Ambassador: There's like, people from all different areas, you know what I mean? It's good to see people come together and work together. You know, they give everybody a shot and a chance.

Alton Moore: This program is beautiful because, first of all, you're helping people; but second of all, you're helping yourself. Because even if you don't stay, they still prepare you for life after an Ambassador.

Jennifer Barrera: This job helped me to approach people, to not to be shy or not to be scared. 

Ricky Vedialgo: I felt good that the Ambassadors hired me because they gave us all the training and made me feel more confident. 

Jennifer Barrera: I'm happy to help other people. I'm happy to make a change in other people's lives.

Ricky Vadialago: It gives people that that would have just slipped through the cracks… it gives them a chance to experience something positive, you know.

Alton Moore: Everyone who has come through this program is better because of it.