A fight is ongoing over SF Mayor London Breed's new proposed budget, in which she is attempting to cut the 14-year-old program Community Ambassador Program in order to close a major deficit. And while the program may have done a lot of good in its 14 years, it is one of several similar, arguably redundant programs that puts "ambassadors" on city streets.

SFist reported last week on the brewing battle between SF supervisors and Breed, with both the progressive and moderate flanks of the Board of Supervisors pushing back on a proposal to cut the Community Ambassadors Program (CAP). The program, which costs the city $3 million annually and is administered through the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, has 34 salaried ambassadors on the city payroll who are spread across six neighborhoods, providing safety escorts, deterring crime, cleaning streets, and reversing opioid overdoses when they encounter them, among other things.

The CAP operates in six neighborhoods and neighborhood clusters: Bayview/Visitacion Valley/Portola, Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury/Lower Haight/Hayes Valley/Fillmore, Mid-Market/Tenderloin, Mission, and Outer Sunset.

But there are other "ambassador" programs that the city also pays for, including those who work for the nonprofit Urban Alchemy who similar work, particularly around the Tenderloin and SoMa; and the SFPD's Community Ambassador Program, in which retired police officers provide similar, community-focused services. That latter program, which Mayor Breed sought to expand under last year's budget, employs 74 retired SFPD officers in six neighborhoods, with some overlap with the CAP ambassadors and Urban Alchemy.

Different business districts employee their own "ambassadors" as well, including the Union Square Business Improvement District.

Breed tells ABC 7 that she is interested in "streamlining our ambassador programs[] and really making them work more efficiently for the city because we have downtown, we have Urban Alchemy, we have Union Square, we have the OCA..."

On Tuesday, Supervisor Dean Preston held a rally with CAP employees on the steps of City Hall, to protest against the proposed cuts that would eliminate the program by 2026.

"It's not just the city's only city-operated ambassador program, it is a nationally recognized model for how you deliver these services in community in a culturally compassionate way," said Preston during the rally, per ABC 7.

According to city data for the last fiscal year, ambassadors have made 48,811 reports to 311, over 4,500 safety escorts, and performed 65,110 wellness checks. They have also performed 100,000 merchant visits.

As one ambassador, Daniel Abera, tells ABC 7, "We do outreach for unhoused individuals. We save lives. We give out resources, referral material... When someone is going through a psychosis or [is] outside their door, they call us to check in with them. They don't all the police."

Facing an $800 million deficit, Breed argues that this $3 million cut is necessary, and that by the end of the next fiscal year, when the CAP gets potentially phased out, the city hopes to find other jobs for the ambassadors.

"The Mayor is also maintaining a significant investment in ambassadors and outreach teams, including funding for SFPD Community (retired Police) Ambassadors, Welcome Ambassadors, Mid-market and Tenderloin ambassadors (Urban Alchemy), and various street response teams that work with individuals in crisis, like the Mid-market and Urban Alchemy ambassadors' program," the Mayor's Office says in a statement.

Breed is also proposing to bolster staffing at the Sheriff’s department, and add more nurses and first responders in the new budget.

Moderate-bloc supervisor Joel Engardio told Bay City News last week that he is against cutting the CAP as well. "We have an extreme shortage of police officers especially out in the Sunset Taraval Station and they just didn't have the ability to patrol and monitor the area in the way the parents wanted them to,” Engardio said, as he was describing how ambassadors intervened in a recent incident at a neighborhood preschool that nearly went badly. "These community ambassadors in their yellow jackets showed up and walked around the preschool and gave peace of mind to the parents."

Previously: Supervisors Up In Arms Over Breed’s Massive Budget Cuts to Community Ambassador Program

Top image via SFGov