Cedar Rapids City Council approves Downtown Ambassadors Program

Published: May. 28, 2019 at 6:24 PM CDT
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A new pilot program will hire former homeless people to patrol parts of downtown Cedar Rapids.

That's the idea behind the Downtown Ambassadors program. It's aimed at curbing crimes, littering and disturbances around Greene Square.

And city council just approved the plan Tuesday night.

Before the meeting the city already put out tentative offers to hire six of these downtown ambassadors.

They'll primarily work in Greene Square Park, and occasionally the Grounds Transportation Center.

The city partnered with Willis Dady Homeless Shelter to find these ambassadors. They are people who used to be homeless.

The ambassadors will start patrolling on June 1st, and mainly work on weekends and nights.

They'll wear vests so they can be easily spotted in the area.

The Executive Director of Willis Dady, Phoebe Trepp, says the ambassadors will meet and greet people in the park.

They should also let others know of resources in the area, like where to get a free meal or a place to stay. And occasionally, call police.

“Beyond that they might what we call pre-crisis de-escalation so they're not there to be police or law enforcement they are there to spot something becoming an argument or see someone in crisis. Or sometimes be able to intervene and suggest other options,” Trepp said.

The ambassadors will be part time employees. This is just a pilot program so the ambassadors are only hired until Labor Day.

The city council does hope this helps with crime in the downtown area. Police have responded to more service calls in that area in the last three years.