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Supervisor pushes to keep San Francisco community ambassadors on the job

S.F. supe pushes to keep community ambassadors on the job
S.F. supe pushes to keep community ambassadors on the job 02:34

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Mayor London Breed works to close San Francisco's $800 million budget deficit, one of her proposals to cut the community ambassador program is getting a lot of pushback. Supervisor Dean Preston is leading the way, introducing a resolution to take the program off the chopping block.

Community ambassadors cover more than a half dozen neighborhoods in San Francisco. They help connect the homeless with resources and they speak over eight languages to reach the diverse communities of the city.

John Britt was one of them and worked in the Tenderloin. "It provides a service that no one else is doing," Britt said.

Britt says he covered every inch of the Tenderloin, going up alleys and seeing many suffering from drug overdoses.

"When I was walking with my coworker and we were walking down Turk Street, we saw a woman lying halfway in the sidewalk and halfway in the street and she was overdosing," he recalled. "We actually had to Narcan her and bring her back to life. That put into me that the job is really important because people walking by didn't even notice her."

According to District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, S.F.'s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs' ambassador program is nationally recognized and is used as a model in other cities.

"There was never any discussion about phasing it out, winding it down, reducing it -- anything like that," Supervisor Preston said. "So we were really shocked when the budget basically canceled that program."

Supervisor Preston says the program costs roughly $3 million a year and he believes the city can find other ways to make up the deficit.

"This is one of the last things that should be on the chopping block," he said. "So do we have to make cuts in our budget? Of course but we do not need to target a program like this that is a real source of pride and really so important for public safety and for positive interactions in our neighborhoods."

Britt is hoping community ambassadors will continue to walk the streets.

"If the program is cut, it would be a really big loss for the community at large because they really do provide a great service," he said.

Five other supervisors are co-sponsoring Preston's resolution. The hope is that, with a united voice, the program can be saved.

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