A program to improve the relationship between student renters and homeowners will expand to encompass three neighborhoods near the University of Montana this semester, thanks to a city grant.
The Associated Students of the University of Montana on Monday announced that Missoula Mayor John Engen had awarded the Neighborhood Ambassador Program $10,000 to expand its intervention efforts.
“We received word of it a bit ago, so we knew we had funding,” said Katherine Brady, director of the ASUM Off-Campus Renter Center. “We now have 15 employees, and we’re covering the entire University District neighborhood.”
The program also has expanded to cover the Lower Rattlesnake and Kiwanis Park neighborhoods. Before the city awarded the funding, ambassadors covered only a portion of the University District.
The program’s early success and the need for expanded coverage became an issue last November, when Engen and UM President Royce Engstrom together signed a Community Quality of Life Initiative.
As part of the initiative, Engen told homeowners that efforts would be made to address parties, underage drinking, litter and parking in areas surrounding campus. The city also seeks to hold landlords accountable for the condition of their property.
Investing in the Neighborhood Ambassador Program, the mayor said, will help temper frustrations between homeowners and the student renters who live next door.
“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,” Engen said.
The program began last spring with roughly seven employees. It works to improve the relationship between student renters and homeowners. Ambassadors go door to door in assigned areas, getting to know residents and serving as a point of contact when issues arise.
Brady said the program now employs 15 ambassadors and has expanded to cover three full neighborhoods. Students recently completed the National Coalition Building Institute’s course on resolving interpersonal and intergroup conflicts.
“We keep track of the complaints we hear, and we follow up on them,” said Brady. “The partying has died down from our intervention.”
Brady said the city has committed to funding a portion of the program through next year.