UT Austin West Campus Ambassadors program works to clean up the drag

A new program through the University of Texas at Austin is working to clean up West Campus and bring positivity to the area. Some business owners said the efforts are working.

"If we let the area go down, if we let the street go down, then businesses are going to shut down," owner of Centro, Erick Canales, said.

What was once an iconic area, became undesirable.

"When we started, it was definitely a different scene," Canales said.

It was reported last year that the area historically has a higher rate of property crime than Austin as a whole. Homeless people, graffiti, and trash lined the streets.

"It got to a breaking point," Canales said.

But now, smiling faces and clean-up crews greet students, faculty, and tourists.

"You want to make the college campus and surrounding areas look inviting, hence the reason why we promote and project that positivity," West Campus Ambassador Kevin Morris Sr. said.

The West Campus Ambassadors is a pilot program through the university. They’ve escorted more than 100 residents home safely.


"Two a.m., if you don’t feel comfortable walking from one spot to another, go ahead and give us a call," Morris said.

They’ve hauled away thousands of pounds of trash, removed thousands of pieces of graffiti, and served as a visible presence for about 20 hours a day.

"People see an ambassador, they hear us from down the street because we’re lively, and we’re engaged with all walks of life and, hopefully, it throws a wrench in your plan if you’re trying to plan something negative out here," Morris said.

Canales said they’ve made a difference.

"I think it's getting better and that will mean at some point that more businesses want to do business here, and it's just such a cool street that has a lot of history," Canales said.

The contract for the West Campus Ambassadors program is for one year and the university funded $1.8 million.