Businesses applaud Downtown Ambassador program, say Salt Lake is safer

An ambassador program is helping businesses feel better about conditions in downtown Salt Lake City. (Photo: Lisa Nico / KUTV)

(KUTV) — You might not see them, but they’re making a difference.

After three months, businesses are applauding Salt Lake City’s Downtown Ambassador program for helping keep the core friendly, clean and safe.

The most notable difference is in the homeless community.

“We felt like we were in danger down here,” Noel Goeller, general manager of Caputo’s Market said. “It was getting really, really bad with the homeless population. And since everything has kicked into play, our neighborhood is safer!”

Goeller has worked at the downtown Caputo’s location for two years and said she’s had some scary incidents.

“Having our customers bombarded, begging for money, things like that,” she said. “It got to a point where literally during our lunch rush, I would have to stay outside on the base of our property line and make sure my customers were safe.”

Other customers said they noticed the downtown area was cleaner and had less panhandlers, but they didn’t know how it happened.

“I’ve definitely noticed improvements around the downtown area. I didn’t realize there was actually effort being put behind it. Maybe that’s a good thing — kind of an invisible effort,” Jesse Zamora, who has worked downtown for about five years, said.

The program is a partnership of private and public entities. Downtown Alliance, Visit Salt Lake, and Salt Lake City teamed up to launch the ambassador program. The program budget is $300,000 with half coming from the City.

The group hired a third party agency StreetPlus to patrol the streets and offer guidance.

"We do a lot of social work. We're not trying to approach it from law enforcement. We're trying to show them compassion and help them on a regular basis," program manager Seth Cole said.

On his patrols, Cole has personally helped get people who are in need access to resources. They work on the ground level to help people get anything from a hot meal to a roof over their head.

"I got into this job so I can have some chicken noodle soup for the soul, as they say," Cole said.

The program is so well received, they’re continuing to add patrols. By next week, the crew will grow to eight units patrolling downtown from North Temple to 400 South. Summer hours are 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Winter hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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