May 16, 2023 - News

The Mission gets more community ambassadors

The intersection at Mission and 24th streets. Photo: Megan Rose Dickey/Axios

San Francisco has brought more community ambassadors to the Mission in an attempt to address ongoing issues of homelessness, illegal vending and public safety issues.

Why it matters: The new ambassador program, which serves as an alternative to the police, aims to improve the conditions in the neighborhood and help residents feel safer, according to the mayor's office.

What's happening: The ambassadors, also known as "community connectors," are part of a $2 million program called Mission SAFE Streets and patrol every block of Mission Street between 14th and Cesar Chavez streets.

  • The ambassadors are responsible for helping residents and merchants connect with city services, providing support to people in crisis, helping vendors get permits and more, Roberto Hernandez, the CEO of Cultura y Arte Nativa de las Americas (the group behind Carnaval San Francisco), told Axios.
  • Hernandez, who helped train the new ambassadors, said people from the community are "the best diplomats."
  • The 16 new ambassadors will be in addition to the five community ambassadors who have served the Mission since 2014 as part of a program with the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, according to a news release announcing the expansion.

What they're saying: The ambassadors "signal a turning point" in the city's efforts to improve conditions in the Mission and help people "feel safe walking in the street or using public transportation," San Francisco District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, whose district includes the Mission, said in the news release.

Zoom out: The city has also launched community ambassador programs in the Tenderloin, downtown, Sunset and other neighborhoods.

Between the lines: Residents of District 9 will vote next year to replace Ronen, who will be termed out, and a number of candidates have already emerged.

  • Political activist Trevor Chandler was first to announce his candidacy last month, while Jackie Fielder, former state Senate candidate and co-founder of the San Francisco Bank Coalition, formally announced her campaign last week.
  • Hernandez, who sees community ambassadors as "a good way to hire people from the community," has also thrown his hat in the ring.

Chandler sees the new ambassadors as "a positive first step but not nearly enough after the years of neglect D9 has experienced in favor of Union Square," he told Axios via email.

  • Chandler, who has said he wants the city to hire more police, also pointed to a 2022 survey showing 77% of small businesses in San Francisco think having more police foot and bike patrols would have a positive impact.

Fielder, a proponent of community-led solutions over traditional policing, told Axios via email that while there have been successes with these kinds of programs, "we need to do a whole lot more."


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