Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Advertise in our classifieds section
Your classified listing could be here!
October 4, 2022

West Campus Ambassadors program seeks to increase safety, cleanliness for residents

Lorianne Willett
West Campus Ambassadors Jason Turner and Israel Cesar Campbell walk down Guadalupe Street on August 24, 2023.

The West Campus Ambassadors program is the newest initiative in an  $8 million investment to increase safety in West Campus, UT President Jay Hartzell and UT System Board of Regents chairman Kevin Eltife announced earlier this month. 

According to their website, the program’s team is split into safety ambassadors and cleaning ambassadors. Safety ambassadors operate between 3:30 p.m. and 3 a.m. by foot, bike and truck providing safety resources, escorting residents and working with local law enforcement to be “another set of eyes in the area.” Cleaning ambassadors operate between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. picking up trash, removing stickers and graffiti, pressure washing and performing hospitality duties such as giving directions and outreach to the unhoused population. 

“A thriving neighborhood bolsters the vitality of UT Austin, and we are committed to creating an environment that is safe and welcoming and that befits a world-class research university,” Hartzell said in a press release. “This is one way for UT to do our part to improve the area, enriching the living and learning experiences of the University’s students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

The ambassadors split West Campus into two zones at Nueces Street, dictating how and where they operate. The first zone spans from Guadalupe to Nueces Street and will have both safety and cleaning ambassadors operating daily. The second zone spans from Nueces Street to Lamar Boulevard and will have safety ambassadors operating daily and cleaning ambassadors only as needed. 

The new program is managed by Block by Block, a group dedicated to improving the urban experience by renewing and maintaining urban spaces and business districts. The group currently manages the South Congress Improvement Association and the Downtown Austin Alliance

Nick Haines, a regional vice president of Block by Block, said ambassadors are trained to observe, report and be a visible and hospitable presence in the area. 

“Our focus is really on a soft approach,” Haines said. “We’re here to be a visible presence not necessarily to engage individuals or solicit individuals, just to be a presence if needed.” 

Haines said the ambassadors extend this sensitive approach to houselessness and supporting the unhoused community. Ambassadors act as a supportive resource but are authorized to use de-escalation tactics as necessary. 

“We also operate in downtown Austin, so we have a lot of experience with the population here,” Haines said. “We know the resources locally. We work with the sobering center (and) other entities, and we love being a resource that can connect those individuals to those resources and just make it a pleasant experience for all.” 

Ambassadors are required to participate in monthly training on mental health to assist them in their interactions with unhoused individuals, Haines said. He said ambassador programs can refer to lists of local resources that are at their disposal in order to provide the best assistance. 

If a West Campus resident is in need of assistance, the West Campus Ambassadors can be reached by texting or calling 512-429-3278.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Lorianne Willett, Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.