Downtown Ambassadors make downtown welcoming for all
Our downtown is a place for everyone and Calgary’s Downtown Ambassadors have been roving its streets and parks to make sure people feel welcome. In the fall of 2020, The City and the Calgary Downtown Association launched the Downtown Ambassador program as a way to connect Calgarians and visitors to resources, services and supports, while providing a friendly presence along Stephen Avenue and within the nine blocks that surround City Hall.
“A big part of our job is creating inclusivity downtown and providing a friendly face to each and every person we talk with,” said Tabitha Pruden, Downtown Ambassador Supervisor for the Calgary Downtown Association. “Downtown is for everyone and we’re here to make sure that people from all walks of life feel welcome, safe and supported.”
What does that mean on the ground though? Under the mandate of enhancing existing community efforts focused on outreach, safety, and connectivity, teams of two Ambassadors hit the streets and check-in on community members along their route. They wear many hats including helping Calgarians and visitors navigate the city centre, buildings ties with local businesses and neighbouring organizations, providing a welcoming presence for people spending time downtown, and making connections and being a resource to vulnerable people by connecting them to services and supports.
Downtown Ambassadors have built strong ties with local businesses and community organizations over the past eight months. They routinely check-in with downtown businesses to build relationships and hear any concerns they might have. They then direct people to different resources for business supports. The team has also been handing out Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) COVID-19 care kits, which include boxes of face masks and hand sanitizer.
By engaging regularly with vulnerable citizens, the Ambassadors build a rapport with individuals, conduct wellness checks and take the opportunity to refer them to resources and supports that they need. They accomplish this by working in partnership with community organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Streets Outreach and Stabilization team, HIV Community Link, Alpha House Society’s DOAP team and the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary, amongst many others. But at a base level it’s about building relationships and building a foundation of positive interactions.
“A big success for us is having people know that we’re out there and that we’re here to help people find the support they need,” said Pruden. “This can be as basic as having a chat with someone to make sure that they are doing okay.”
Downtown Ambassadors connect Calgarians and visitors to information on services, places and supports in the city. The team has been especially busy helping Calgarians find their way to Alberta Health Services clinicians based out of the TELUS Convention Centre Immunization Clinic and answering any questions people might have about how the immunization clinic works, in addition to providing free self-guided tour brochures about nearby public art and historical sites of interest.
Since launching in September 2020, the Downtown Ambassadors have had more than 3,900 interactions with Calgarians and visitors, including more than 2,300 interactions with members of Calgary’s vulnerable population, and over 400 interactions with local business owners and staff. This has included more than 1,200 wellness checks and Ambassadors have helped 620 Calgarians connect with social services and supports.
“Given the devastating effects of COVID-19 displacement, our front-line Downtown Ambassador team is playing a particularly critical role in helping to steward our community towards recovery as public health restrictions lift. The main goal is to establish more pride of place, active streets and well-used public spaces in the heart of our great city,” said Jennifer Rempel, Calgary Downtown Association general manager. “Ambassadors provide a much-needed presence in the commercial core, helping those who live and work in the area feel safer, but they are also trained to respond to the physical and mental health needs of those experiencing vulnerabilities.”
Beginning June 1, the Ambassadors will be adding the entire length of Stephen Avenue and 7 Avenue, extending westward to Century Gardens, to their route, along with 3 Street, from Stephen Avenue to the Eau Claire Promenade. This expansion will allow the Ambassadors to connect with and support a larger number of Calgarians and visitors throughout Calgary’s downtown.
“The Downtown Ambassadors have established themselves as a welcoming and supporting presence over the past nine months and we now have the opportunity to have them serve a larger area of our downtown,” said Kathleen Maddan, The City of Calgary’s liaison for the Downtown Ambassador program. “As we move into the summer, with more people coming back downtown, it’s a great time to expand this program.”
Downtown Ambassadors are out on the streets Monday-Saturday between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. You’ll be able to recognize the ambassadors by the red jackets they wear.
If you’d like to get in touch with our Downtown Ambassadors, you can do so by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (403) 215-1567. The Ambassador phone line is typically monitored Monday-Saturday between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.