Bay Area/ Oakland/ Politics & Govt
AI Assisted Icon
Published on February 21, 2024
Oakland Secures $3.5 Million Grant to Expand Safety Ambassador Program Through 2026Source: Google Street View

Oakland is beefing up its streets with a new safety initiative fueled by a $3.5 million state grant to curb non-emergency crises. The California Department of Social Services is giving the city the funds to expand its safety ambassador program, which sees mediators specializing in de-escalation and trauma-informed care patrolling neighborhoods, according to a statement from the City of Oakland.

With plans to stretch into areas such as Jack London Square, Little Saigon, and Lake Merritt in the coming years, the existing Downtown and Chinatown programs will get a significant boost from the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems Act (C.R.I.S.E.S. Act) Grant Pilot Program funds, administered by the city’s Economic and Workforce Development Department. Set to run through August 31, 2026, Family Bridges, Inc. will take the helm of these efforts with their team of Community Ambassadors, the organization told the City of Oakland.

Together with MACRO (Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland), the initiative aims to reduce reliance on law enforcement for non-emergency situations, freeing up resources for more pressing police, paramedic, and dispatcher demands. In addition to services like housing navigation and a new dedicated hotline, the ambassadors will maintain a presence through street outreach and mediation, trying to ease tensions before they escalate.

The Oakland City Council is poised to review the grant on February 27th, with a full City Council thumbs-up potentially following on March 6. Oakland mayor Sheng Thao praised the grant in partnership with Family Bridges, expressing that this move would free up law enforcement and bring forth a community safety approach sensitive to Oakland’s diversity, as stated by the City of Oakland.

Further community figures, including Councilmember Carroll Fife and Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas have expressed their support for the grant's potential impact on the city's welfare. Bas, in particular, highlighted Family Bridges' established presence in Chinatown, their work with businesses, residents, and the unhoused, and the aim to create a successful crisis response model in a press release.

Corinne Jan, CEO of Family Bridges, Inc., explained the organization’s readiness to tackle the project's goals, focusing on relationship building and mutual respect. "Thank you for this opportunity. We look forward to partnering with all of our community members to achieve safe, thriving and vibrant communities in Oakland," she mentioned in the same press briefing.

Oakland native and E14 Gallery owner Viviana Rodriguez-Smith also commented on the development, expressing her excitement for an enhanced focus on service direction and creating a welcoming environment, both critical for local businesses and cultural expression. Her remarks were captured in a recent statement by the City of Oakland.