The Associated Students of The University of Montana Neighborhood Ambassador Program expanded its services this semester with the help of $10,000 from Missoula Mayor John Engen’s office. The student program now serves the entire University District, and part of the Lower Rattlesnake and Kiwanis Park neighborhoods, which have a high density of student renters.
The program, which started in spring 2012, works to improve relationships between student renters and permanent residents living in neighborhoods surrounding the UM campus. Ambassadors work in assigned areas, going door to door to get to know residents and serve as a resource if they have any issues with their neighbors.
“Our small investment in the ASUM Neighborhood Ambassador Program pays big dividends for the city,” said Engen. “Our citizens in neighborhoods close to the University have the chance to develop working relationships with students who are all about being good neighbors.
“These ambassadors are trained to help solve problems, and those solutions ultimately temper frustration, reduce the calls for service to our police department and generally improve the relationships between neighbors. That’s all good.”
Aside from door-to-door visits, the ambassadors produce a monthly newsletter to create a network of communication, plan fun neighborhood events and implement outreach campaigns on renter rights and responsibilities.
“The program takes a preventative approach to decreasing conflicts in our neighborhoods,” said Katherine Brady, ASUM Off-Campus Renter Center director. “We encourage regular communication between neighbors that starts immediately upon move-in, in hopes that this will create an environment that allows potential conflicts to work themselves out before they escalate into problems that require mediation from an outside source.”
The ambassadors hit the streets last week for the first round of door knocking. The group’s first event of the semester will be a “Meet and Greet with the Ambassadors” from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Buttercup Market & Cafe at 1221 Helen Ave. All residents in the program area are welcome to attend and enjoy free appetizers and beverages while getting to know the ambassadors and learning more about the program.