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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (April 18, 2024)—The West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority (DDA) today announced a five-year partnership with Block by Block. This partnership combines multiple services into one provider, allowing the DDA to more efficiently address the growing needs of the downtown district. During a three-stage phase-in schedule, Block by Block will assume management of downtown’s safety, cleaning, and pressure washing services with a new team of Ambassadors.

“By combining these services, the DDA will have more flexibility to quickly reassign resources as the needs of the downtown community continue to evolve,” said Raphael Clemente, executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority. “We will also have improved data collection through Block by Block’s integrated reporting system, which will allow us to identify any specific sections of downtown that might need increased attention.”

Clean Team Ambassadors are dedicated to maintaining cleanliness throughout the district. Duties encompass emptying trash cans, removing graffiti, pressure washing sidewalks and streets, weed control, handbill removal, and more. Safety and Hospitality Ambassadors are trained to provide assistance and information to residents, visitors, and merchants. Acting as the eyes and ears for Downtown West Palm Beach, they will collaborate with the City of West Palm Beach Police Department to improve the urban environment for constituents, aid in homeless outreach, and conduct street patrols throughout downtown.

“We at Block by Block are eager about getting to work in West Palm Beach. We aim to improve all the traits that make downtown West Palm Beach a great place to live, work, and play,” said John S. Koch, Division Vice President of Block By Block.

Block by Block has developed an optimized operating model based on best practices, research and development, and modern technology throughout a more than 20-year history. This model has attracted partners in more than 150 locations across the United States.

For more information about the DDA, visit or call 561-833-8873.


About the Downtown Development Authority

The West Palm Beach DDA is an independent taxing district created in 1967 by a special act of the Florida Legislature. Its mission is to promote and enhance a safe, vibrant Downtown for our residents, businesses and visitors through the strategic development of economic, social and cultural opportunities.

For more information about the DDA or Downtown West Palm Beach, please visit or call the DDA at (561) 833-8873.


DTSF Ambassadors keep downtown clean and safe

Original article by: Gracie Terrall, Keloland News First

If you’re wondering who the people in bright red shirts cleaning up garbage downtown are, they’re the new Downtown Sioux Falls Ambassadors and their job is to keep the area clean and safe for everyone.

Since 2021, Martin Dill was the sole ambassador and took care of the downtown upkeep by himself. Recently, DTSF hired six more people to serve as ambassadors of downtown and help with cleanup and safety.

“You’ll be going along cleaning up and you can kind of tell when people are looking a little lost, they’re staring at the maps or their phones and you go up to them like, ‘Hi, can I help you folks with something?’ And nine times out of ten they are looking for something and we chat them up a little bit,” Dill said.

The ambassadors clean sidewalks, recommend restaurants to newcomers, report suspicious activity, help people in need of assistance and handle the trash and recycling bins.

“People have commented mostly about the cleanliness,” Dill said. “I’ve had a lot of people comment that they’ve seen the staff. They say, ‘We’ve seen you guys all over the place and it looks really clean. There’s no trash or cigarette butts anywhere.’ That’s fantastic, that means we’re doing our job.”

With the additional staff, they are able to reach more areas of downtown than before. They focus on Phillips Avenue and East 8th Street every day and clean adjacent streets like Main and Dakota a few times a week.

Dravyn Alarconsides started working as an ambassador last week and he’s already been interacting with business owners and customers.

“I picked up trash and learned how to sweep up the things in the gutter, pick up cigarette butts and say hello to business owners here in town,” Alarconsides said. “We have business cards that we actually give people to let them know that we’re down here trying to make the downtown area safer for individuals to promote people wanting to have businesses down here.”

Apart from keeping the downtown sidewalks clean, safety is a huge part of an ambassador’s role. They do patrols on bicycles throughout downtown from Falls Park to the river walk and nearby bike trails four times a day. The ambassadors also assist the police and call in suspicious activity.

Alarconsides said he had to call the non-emergency police number Wednesday morning to request help with an unhoused man threatening people. Alarconsides said the situation was handled swiftly.

Sometimes, Dill found that just talking and having a conversation with unhoused people can help them if they’re having a bad day. He said ambassadors help give unhoused people rides to Bishop Dudley Hospitality House or The Link, a community detox center.

“With the unhoused population, just getting an opportunity to chat with people, see how their day is going,” Dill said. “Every once in a while, if someone is having a really bad day, they just appreciate the fact that somebody talked to them about it. It’s what we’re here for.”

According to Tenley Schwartz, the marketing director for DTSF, funding for the ambassador expansion came from the Business Improvement District (BID). These are funds that all property owners in the geographical area of downtown pay to maintain property value and safety. DTSF recently updated the BID structure, which hadn’t been updated in over 30 years, after seeing the positive outcome of Dill’s work as a sole ambassador to allow DTSF to hire more ambassadors.

Schwartz said the program will likely continue into the far future now that they have the funding and are hearing the feedback from downtown businesses and customers.

“The plan is to keep improving the process, keep training these folks to do a really great job when they’re representing our city,” Schwartz said. “We’d like to see this continue in perpetuity to make sure that downtown stays a place that feels welcoming.”

Posted on Wednesday May 24, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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A Heart Made For Serving

Ambassador Spotlight: Clarence France

In the bustling city of Minneapolis, there are countless unsung heroes working behind the scenes, striving to make a positive impact on their community. Among these remarkable individuals is Clarence France, a Livability Ambassador whose unwavering dedication to his city and its people has touched the lives of many. With his love for Minneapolis and a burning desire to give back, Clarence embodies the true spirit of a Downtown Improvement District Ambassador.

With over four years of service under his belt, Clarence’s journey as a Livability Ambassador began with a role as a patroller on a segway. However, it wasn’t long before he felt a profound urge to do more for the people he encountered every day.

“It seemed like a calling,” Clarence reflects, “I wanted to help people.”

He attributes his involvement in the community as the catalyst for his journey. It is this genuine care and concern for all members of his community that has fueled his dedication to making a difference.

“This is my Minneapolis,” he says, his voice brimming with sincerity. “I care for the people in this city, whether you’re a millionaire or without a dollar in your pocket.”

Working as a Livability Ambassador is not Clarence’s first experience in a position of service. Having served in the Marine Corps for 16 years, his time in the military played a significant role in shaping his character and instilling a strong sense of duty. His experiences cultivated his unwavering commitment and strengthened his resolve to make a positive impact wherever he goes.

“I don’t need a thank you,” he emphasizes. “I do these things because they need to be done.”

Clarence strives to bring positivity to even the most negative situations, believing that compassion and empathy are vital in building trust with others. His genuine desire to make a lasting difference is evident. Each day, Clarence wakes up with gratitude, especially when he’s out in the field, knowing that he has the opportunity to touch lives and make a difference. His passion for people enables him to pour his heart and soul into his job as a Livability Ambassador.

“I want to make sure I tell people ‘I’ll see them later’ so they know they aren’t alone,” he shares.

Clarence’s journey has not been without its challenges. Dealing with dyslexia and having experienced the effects of a flash bomb, he sometimes faces communication obstacles. But these challenges have only strengthened his resolve to overcome adversity and continue making a difference.

Outside of his work, Clarence fills his free time with a range of hobbies and adventures. Exploring the beauty of Minnesota through river walks and kayaking, playing the guitar, and engaging in various sports activities – he thrives on staying active and continually learning.

“After I was a veteran, I needed to discover new things. I love doing something and staying busy. I am always learning and trying new things.” Clarence shares, making his thirst for knowledge and zest for life evident.

Clarence’s unwavering commitment to Minneapolis and its people serves as a shining example of what it means to be a Livability Ambassador. His genuine care, compassion, and unwavering dedication have touched the lives of many, proving that even the smallest acts of kindness can make a significant impact.

“This is my Minneapolis. This is why I want to make a difference, no matter how big or small,” Clarence adds.

Posted on Wednesday May 24, 2023 by Insider Look

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Spring into Action

Minneapolis Welcomes the Warmer Season

As warm weather arrives in Downtown Minneapolis, the city is gearing up for an exciting summer season filled with events and festivities. The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District Ambassador Program has been hard at work preparing the city for the influx of people and activities that come with the summer season.

The Ambassadors have been preparing tirelessly for the various events taking place downtown. The event list includes The Alleyway Project, Street Art Festival, Stone Arch Bridge Festival, and other conventions and concerts.  To accommodate the increased demand for their services, the Ambassador force has grown by fourteen individuals.

The Skyway team has also returned to the streets for additional safety and hospitality support. The team will be assisting visitors and creating a welcoming and safe environment.

“I am so excited to be back outdoors! I love the summers in Minneapolis!” shares Delle, a Safety Ambassador.

One of the main areas the Ambassadors will focus their efforts is Peavey Plaza, a popular green space in the heart of Downtown. The Ambassadors will maintain cleanliness and friendliness at the plaza, ensuring visitors have a positive experience while enjoying the atmosphere.

Special Projects Ambassadors were also implemented to maintain the city’s green spaces. The Ambassadors will be watering plants and removing weeds to ensure that the city’s flowers and greenery remain beautiful and well-kept throughout the hot season.

“The more people that are out, the more work there is for us. We stay busy for sure!” shares Dave, Special Projects Ambassador.

During the night, the night crew will be hard at work, polishing the city’s streets to keep them clean and pristine. The Ambassadors will powerwash Nicollet, ensuring the walkways remain in pristine condition day in and day out. Additionally, the night team will use the street sweeper to remove any debris next to the sidewalks.

The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District Ambassador Program is working in full gear to create a positive and enjoyable experience during the summer season for visitors and residents. From maintaining cleanliness to providing safety and hospitality support, the Ambassadors are an integral part of the city’s preparation for the bustling summer Downtown Minneapolis.

Meet the Louisville ambassadors rejuvenating downtown area

Dressed in bright orange, they’re the eyes and ears across 90 square blocks of downtown Louisville, working to make it safer and cleaner.

Isaiah Kim-Martinez | WHAS11

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mayor Craig Greenberg has called for more ambassadors on the streets of Louisville to assist police in their patrols, to be an extra set of eyes and ears for locals and visitors alike as the Kentucky Derby approaches.

“Our presence being here helps make it safe,” Charles Coleman said.

Coleman has been a Louisville Downtown Partnership ambassador for two years. He’s one of 19 selfless men and women working around the clock across 90 square blocks of the downtown area.

“Whether it’s raining, whether it’s cold, whether it’s nighttime — you know there is always someone out there walking and keeping an eye out for you,” said James Wells, Block by Block’s general manager for Louisville operations. Block by Block contracts out the ambassadors.

Since the protests of 2020, the resurgence of downtown has been a slow climb — albeit not for a lack of effort from businesses. Several have come and gone within just a couple of years.

Wells says the ambassadors are part of the blueprint for revitalization.

“We’ve done everything within the last year, from interacting with people to helping deescalate situations to providing a friendly face, or a friendly presence around a chaotic situation,” he said.

LDP ambassadors patrol the streets from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Some travel by foot, others by bike. Many of them have maps on hand.

On Wednesday, WHAS11 followed along as they went about their daily process — which includes removing graffiti, cleaning up trash, power washing sidewalks, putting up street decorations, and of course interacting with the community at the return of Food Truck Wednesdays this season.

“We try to keep it fun and keep everyone in a good mood. They’re doing something that some people would never want to do, but they enjoy doing it,” Operations Manager Brandon Person said.

And for people like Coleman, the satisfaction comes from seeing familiar faces return to the area — not just for Derby or conventions, but for a regular Wednesday in April to take in the sights and sounds.

“Every day and week and month that goes by, more people are coming back to the downtown area,” Coleman said. “You can’t spell Louisville without spelling love.”

The LDP Ambassadors program has been around since 1996, and it’s grown. The 2020 team had 13 ambassadors on staff. Right now, they have 19.


W. 7th property owners get in on the perks of nearby downtown

Commercial properties in the downtown improvement district pay assessments for cleaning and safety services.

By Katie Galioto and James Walsh | Star Tribune

Donning her uniform neon windbreaker Wednesday morning, Ashley Borud pushed a cart of cleaning supplies and trash bags down St. Paul’s W. 7th Street.

She used a trash picker to grab a coffee cup lid and a cigarette butt. She scrubbed fresh graffiti off a parking meter. She stopped to ask a man sleeping on the ground outside the Holiday Inn if he was OK.

Though her route was new, the shift was as typical as any for Borud, the operations manager for St. Paul’s Street Team, which launched in 2021 with the goal of a cleaner, safer downtown. Starting last week, the team’s geographic footprint expanded to several blocks in the W. 7th neighborhood after commercial property owners petitioned the city to join the downtown improvement district.

The privately funded and operated improvement district provides special services — including Street Team patrols and a safety communications center — in exchange for annual assessments. Downtown businesses banded together to create the district to respond to needs in St. Paul’s urban core that fell outside of government purview, or that weren’t being addressed quickly and regularly.

Pat Boemer admitted he was feeling a little salty on Wednesday. The owner of Patrick McGovern’s Pub & Restaurant said he’d just paid his annual property tax bill, about $180,000.

“Don’t get me started,” he said, talking about what he considers inadequate service from the city in exchange for what he pays. “As a taxpayer, it’s really kind of pathetic. If these people were in private industry, they’d all be fired.”

But when Boemer was asked about the prospect of joining the downtown improvement district, he said he’d happily foot the extra expense — about $7,000 a year — to enhance his street’s cleanliness and public safety.

“As much as I take care of my property, and most of us do down here on 7th, it’s just nice to have them doing this,” he said. “Picking up trash, removing graffiti. If you’re going to make the city a little better, it’s worth it to me.”

Boemer opened McGovern’s 41 years ago, making him one of the corridor’s most established businesses, along with Cossetta, DeGidio’s and Mancini’s. Over the years, especially since the opening of Xcel Energy Center, the street’s profile and reputation have grown.

“People who are experiencing St. Paul, especially visitors, experience this area as downtown. They don’t have an awareness of where the line exists,” said Joe Spencer, president of the nonprofit St. Paul Downtown Alliance.

“We just want to put our best foot forward,” he added, especially since downtowns across the country have struggled to rebound from the pandemic.

State law lays out the process for creating and enlarging special service districts, which can be vetoed if a certain percentage of property owners object. Spencer said he’s confident there is enough support to expand along W. 7th.

In addition to property owner support, the change requires City Council approval. That process is likely to start in the coming weeks, with the goal of officially adding W. 7th to the district at the start of next year. A grant from the Knight Foundation is paying for services in the meantime.

The downtown improvement district board, which consists of property owners, set a $1.2 million budget for 2023. Commercial property owners pay into the fund through assessments calculated based on their building’s square footage and their street frontage.

The district contracts the Downtown Alliance to manage operations like the safety center, where a dispatcher helps coordinate communications between private security teams, police and social service agencies. With a camera-sharing program and live communication channel, officials in the center are able to see and spread real-time safety information throughout the downtown network.

“There are certain benefits to living outside the government,” Spencer said. “We coordinate with the city a lot, of course. … But we’re just a smaller organization. We can be super responsive and agile.”

Kathy Gosiger, general manager of Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub, said the business is on board to try joining the district for a year. While she’s not sure if the visibility of the green-clad Street Team will make customers and tourists feel better, Gosiger is hopeful their work will make a difference.

“You know the old saying: People don’t see clean, but they see dirty,” she said. “I think this will help.”

Borud and her team are off to a start, out and about from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. On a given shift, the Street Team could help shovel snow from a street corner, weed cracks in the sidewalk or provide an escort to a vehicle.

Continuing along her route Wednesday, Borud moved a few Spin scooters to the edge of the sidewalk and chatted with a man wondering when Cossetta opened.

As he walked away, she radioed the question to the dispatcher and called after him: “It opens at 11.”

Posted on Wednesday May 10, 2023 by Insider Look

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Growth From Within

Company Culture of Leadership Development and Identification

“I want for us to be more than just a job. I want our company to provide a career path for people so they can do better for themselves,” shared Blair McBride, Block by Block (BBB) president.

Throughout the past few decades, Block by Block has evolved into the nation’s leading downtown hospitality and cleaning service provider. As the business expanded, Blair made it a priority to invest in the company’s employees. Block by Block strived to provide training and advancement opportunities, putting employees at the heart of all operations.

“We don’t want people to leave for better opportunities. We want better opportunities to be here,” Blair said.

Blair started as a parking lot attendant with Block by Block’s predecessor company Brantley Services and worked his way through various Ambassador roles, followed by other positions on the corporate scale before becoming the president of Block by Block in 2014. When first hired, Blair never intended to stay longer than three weeks, but a great supervisor and the enjoyment from his work kept him around for over 28 years.

“Culture is what keeps people around. It’s at the root of who we are,” he added.

Blair’s story isn’t unique to Block by Block. The company sustains many employees who remain for the vast opportunities. Derrek Hughes, Vice President of Operations, shares many similar experiences with Blair. He also started his career at the company when it was known as Brantley Security. Beyond the fulfillment of helping communities and people, he appreciates the variety found in his role.

“If you are going to spend a magnificent time doing something, you need to find value in what you do and have it be impactful,” Derrek expressed.

To continuously expand meaningful job opportunities for employees of Block by Block, Blair and Derrek allocated resources to develop the Leadership Identification Program (LID) and the Leadership Development Program. By providing training and advancement opportunities, the company invests in its employees and cultivates a positive culture, encouraging growth and development.

The Leadership Identification Program ensures that Block by Block promotes individuals who know and trust the company’s systems, ultimately contributing to its success and fulfilling the needs of the downtown communities. Currently, there are 200 employees taking advantage of the LID program, eleven from the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District.

“I want more people within our company who are promotable and ready to go to the next level because I don’t want to hire somebody off the street,” Blair said. “I would really rather promote someone we already know and trust and have them rise through the ranks. Honestly, I’m looking for the new me.”

Anna, Regional Vice President of the Great Plains Region, which includes Minnesota, also paved her way in the company. After completing her Master’s Degree, Anna applied for the Training and Development Coordinator position in Downtown Minneapolis where she was thrilled to employ her love for teaching and training. Twelve years later, she is just as passionate about her job as today.

“We have so much opportunity to change people’s experience in the public space,” she shared.

The Block by Block operation in Downtown Minneapolis is comprised of various staff who took on new growth opportunities. Pam, Office Administrator, started as an MDID Cleaning Ambassador. She also supported the Livability Ambassadors when they needed more hands on deck. Pam applied her strength to fill a payroll opening and took over other administrative tasks.

“I love working with numbers. It keeps me focused,” Pam added.

Victoria, another Minneapolis staff member, also found a way to use her knowledge and expertise in a new position she took on a year ago. Initially hired as a supervisor for a university campus account, management quickly promoted her to Dispatch Manager.

“I was looking for a place where I could create a more important impact in the community,” Victoria shared why she was first attracted to work at Block by Block.

She now oversees the MDID Dispatch Team and collaborates closely with the Minneapolis Police Department and other security networks in Downtown Minneapolis. Proud of the diversity in the company, Victoria is passionate about serving the downtown community, reflective of its needs.

Posted on Thursday May 4, 2023 by Around the Block

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Around the Block with Block by Block – Episode 2

We are back with our second installment of Around the Block! This month we are covering what’s new at Block by Block with our guest emcees Regional Vice President Anna Schmoll and Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID) General Manager LaVelle Warfield!

In this video, we will be sharing the details of:

  • Our newly created Marketing Operations Storyteller position with our partners at MDID
  • Our Volunteer Day Program operated in collaboration with Louisville Downtown Partnership leading up to the Kentucky Derby
  • Our hands-on training process for Operations Managers

We hope you enjoy learning more about our forward-thinking operating model and how we are always going the extra mile to bring added value to our customers through our operations!

We will see you next time, around the block!

Missed an episode? Catch up with BBB on YouTube!


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Posted on Thursday May 4, 2023 by Growing Great Leaders

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From Dispatch to the World

Two former Dispatchers at St. Paul Downtown Improvement District (SPDID) have been promoted within Block by Block (BBB) as part of our Leadership Identification Program (LID). LID seeks to identify individuals within BBB who are interested in growing within our company and have good leadership skills, a “can-do” attitude, and other robust talents.

When two new leadership positions opened at SPDID, Operations Manager Ashley Borud knew just where to turn to fill those roles. Both Cheyenne Johnson and Roshawnda “Shawnda” Wallace had excelled as Dispatchers with SPDID for more than a year, and both had expressed their interest in growing at BBB. Ashley said their dedication and work ethic made them stand out as perfect candidates to advance into leadership roles within the company. Recently promoted, Shawnda is now an Operations Supervisor and Cheyenne is a Training Coordinator.

When asked what leadership qualities she saw in Cheyenne and Shawnda, Ashley responded: “Their positive attitudes, dedication to the team, punctuality, go-getter attitudes, willingness to go the extra mile, communication, and so much more!”

Ashley continued, “We hire for personality and train for success.  Every day these two showed, and continue to show, up with their vibrant personalities; no matter what the day brought. Shawnda and Cheyenne care about BBB and our mission, the Client and their desires, the field team Ambassadors, our partnerships, and the public.”

Shawnda is a “spunky, strong, go-getter” with “an outstanding personality and a heart of gold,” according to Ashley. She is passionate about working for BBB, SPDID, and her team. Shawnda regularly posts updates about her SPDID team of Ambassadors conducting maintenance and completing day-to-day operations on her Facebook page.

Recently, she shared: “We enjoy all parts of our Downtown! The good, the bad, the all-around! Our Downtown is our home away from home and we couldn’t be more proud to assist our Downtown community in any way we can! Sun’s out, fun’s out!” BBB is thrilled to advance Shawnda into a leadership position in St. Paul where she can continue sharing her passion with the community.

Shawnda’s growth within BBB is a testament to our mission of Growing Great Leaders from within. However, she isn’t the only great leader we’ve got growing around here!

Cheyenne is now a Training Coordinator for both SPDID and Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District accounts. She, like Shawnda, began with BBB as a Dispatcher for SPDID.

“Her professional demeanor, experience, knowledge, expertise and outright amazing personality are just a few key details that led her to this new role,” said Ashley.

Cheyenne is an essential team member who continues to make a positive impact on our teams and those who live, work, and play in our Downtown districts. We are excited to have her in this new position at BBB!

Are you an Ambassador looking to grow within BBB like Cheyenne and Shawnda? We asked Ashley about the tips she would offer Ambassadors looking to take on more leadership responsibilities. She said the following were essential to success:

  • Let your managers know your goals
  • Give it your all, always, and not just for opportunities
  • Invest in yourself
  • Work hard, but also give yourself a lot of grace

Congratulations to our newly promoted BBB team members! We are so happy to have you as a part of what makes Block by Block special, unique, and one-of-a-kind!

Posted on Wednesday May 3, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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Leader in the Making

Ambassador Spotlight: Kevin Hallenberger

From exchanging only a few words with people and facing challenges in his hospitality role to becoming a confident and capable team lead for a growing night shift crew, Kevin Hallenberger has undergone a significant transformation.

Kevin has been working at Block by Block for 13 years, beginning his journey when he was only 19 years old. During his tenure, he has tried his hand at all the different roles offered at the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, from being a Safety Ambassador to a Cleaning Ambassador and even working on the Special Projects Team.

Initially, Kevin was a very shy and introverted individual and didn’t quite fit the mold of an outgoing and talkative Ambassador. However, with time, he began to break out of his shell and became a leader. Angel Johnson, Operations Manager at Block by Block, remembers him as “a man of few words” but acknowledges how much he has changed over the years.

Kevin’s father, Dave Hallenberger, who is also one of the first Ambassadors at Block by Block, advocated for Kevin to secure the position when he first applied. Kevin has always been grateful for his dad’s support and guidance.

“He is completely different from when he first started. He takes ownership of what he does.” Dave shares.

As the years went on, Kevin developed his leadership skills and now heads a team of people during the night shift, which is a testament to how far he has come. Although working during the night shift can be challenging, Kevin has learned to adapt. He now operates the street sweeper, an essential part of keeping the city clean, and recently, his crew has been given the responsibility of ensuring that trash cans are emptied way before people return to the city.

Despite the challenges that come with working the night shift, Kevin finds it rewarding. He enjoys the peace and quiet of the city during those early morning hours, and he takes pride in knowing that he is making a difference in his community by keeping the city clean.

“He can make decisions, and he takes action, and that’s what makes him such a good leader,” says Angel.

Kevin’s journey at Block by Block is an inspiring one. Starting as a shy and reserved teenager, he has now become a confident and capable leader. His story is proof that hard work and dedication can lead to great things.

“I like to take the initiative when I see something needs work. Sometimes I have to hold back my questions for the managers since I work when they are usually off,” says Kevin.

Southside Ambassador program appoints new operations manager

By: Sarah Stevens | The Brown and White

The Southside Ambassador program appointed a new operations manager, Sandra Zajacek. She joins a team of four ambassadors focused on preserving the quality of life in the Southside community.

Zajacek said the program’s goal is not to make large changes, but instead focus on maintaining the city’s art and culture.

She said the program is addressing environmental issues like sweeping streets and recycling cigarette butts before they contaminate the city’s water.

Before Zajacek stepped into the role, Hector Lopez oversaw the program for eight years. Zajacek said she hopes to continue his initiatives, including setting up more cigarette receptacles.

Zajacek worked on Easton’s ambassador team for several years but always had a strong connection to the Bethlehem area.

She said her grandmother worked cleaning Lehigh dormitories and her grandfather worked cleaning at Bethlehem city hall.

“I love being on the Southside,” Zajacek said. “It’s a great mixed bag of education, industry, restaurants and residents, and I love the energy here.”

Working for the program is a job, not a volunteer position, but Zajacek said there are still ways for Lehigh students to get involved in the community and support the program.

For example, Zajacek encourages students to clean up the blocks they reside on.

On the business side of the program, the main managing group is Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation. The organization works to promote business on the South Side.

Asher Schiavone, the economic development coordinator for the City of Bethlehem, said the program launched in 2014 in partnership with Lehigh, which provides the majority of the program’s funding.

“The ambassadors are awesome,” Schiavone said. “The proof is talking with the business owners and talking with the visitors downtown. The ambassadors track how many people they reach out to.”

Schiavone said the ambassador program has a strong connection with many of the local establishments Lehigh students frequent. He said the ambassadors play an important role in increasing interactions between the Southside community and Lehigh students.

He said Zajacek has fresh ideas and he especially supports her in reinforcing that ambassadors ask individuals if they need help when they are walking around at night, when people normally go out.

Victoria Wagner, ‘24, said the Southside is a welcoming place where she is proud to walk around and show her family.

“I generally don’t feel unsafe outside,” Wagner said. “I don’t see trash on the floor or garbage bags left out. It is a really clean community.”

Schiavone said they were initially worried about Lopez’s departure but are excited to have Zajacek take his place.

Though a small group, the five ambassadors can be spotted around Bethlehem in their gold and blue uniforms.

From the street to housing: Homeless outreach efforts in Downtown Santa Monica

SMPD Image

Story shared from Santa Monica Daily Free Press

By Grace Adams

Editor’s Note:

Following this year’s annual Homeless Count on Jan 25 and in anticipation of the results in May, over the next few months the Santa Monica Daily Press will be taking a closer look at the efforts currently in place in the City to address homelessness. Through a series of articles, we’ll explore the network of available services, what’s working and what’s not, and what ideas are out there to better address the crisis going forward. Once a person falls into homelessness, the journey out is long and arduous. Through this series we’ll show what that journey looks like in Santa Monica: from the street to housing. This week, we’re focusing on outreach – the act of engaging individuals living on the street with the goal of connecting them to services – beginning with Downtown Santa Monica, the epicenter of the City’s homelessness crisis. 

On a recent Wednesday morning, Donovan Wilkes walked into the Starbucks on the Third Street Promenade, but not to order a coffee. Instead, he asked the store’s employees a series of questions: how many people were sleeping outside when the store opened at 5 a.m.? Were they the same people as usual? Any incidents he should know about?

This is how Wilkes, the Outreach Coordinator for Downtown Santa Monica (DTSM), begins many of his days. As the earliest place open on the Promenade, he said the Starbucks is a “hotspot” for homeless individuals to gather in the mornings.

“Just like most of us, they need a coffee to get the day started,” he said, gesturing to a man sitting on the ground outside holding a steaming cup in his hands. “Tony right here, he’s a regular, he sits there, he gets his coffee, he minds his business and he gets going.”

Wilkes said most of the individuals outside the Starbucks in the morning leave as the day goes on and shoppers and tourists fill the street. However, in the event that there is a problem, he said DTSM has services in place to support employees of downtown businesses.

“They know our program pretty well, they know to reach out and call for folks who are a little more aggressive,” he said.

DTSM contracts with the company Block by Block to provide maintenance, safety and hospitality services downtown. As part of an effort to address safety concerns on the promenade, they recently merged the hospitality and safety teams and put all of those employees through training to become certified as security guards.

“Just the hospitality training was not sufficient to be able to deal with some of the challenges that we face here in our downtown,” DTSM CEO Andrew Thomas said. “In the past when we had a need to respond, and there were only hospitality ambassadors available, we had to scramble to find people who could respond to these issues.”

He said that with the newly-combined team, now referred to as “community ambassadors,” DTSM has nearly doubled the number of employees through Block by Block capable of responding to safety-related concerns involving individuals experiencing homelessness and trained in de-escalation techniques.

The Outreach Team, which Wilkes heads, has much of the same training, plus additional experience and expertise on how to engage with people on the streets. In addition to being a resource to address issues that arise, their job is to approach anyone who appears to be living in homelessness downtown with the goal of connecting them to services such as shelter, mental health care, rehab and employment support, to help them get off the street and eventually into stable housing.

Building relationships

Unlike the ambassadors, who are recognizable by their teal jackets, DTSM’s five outreach workers wear casual clothes without logos or branding. The only thing that identified Wilkes as a DTSM employee as he walked down the Promenade on Wednesday was a hat reading Downtown Santa Monica across the front.

“That is intentional,” said Erica Leon, the General Manager of DTSM. “A lot of these individuals are always being approached by someone in uniform and there is a fear around that.”

Wilkes said a key part of outreach work is building relationships and gaining trust, and not differentiating himself through his clothing helps him to do that.

After leaving Starbucks, Wilkes continued down the promenade and spotted a man walking on the other side.

“Oh hey Chris!” He called out, waving. Chris smiled and stopped to talk for a few minutes.

“He is very interesting to me,” Wilkes said after Chris had left. “Chris has been out here experiencing homelessness in Santa Monica since at least 2017.”

He said Chris had occasionally gone to a shelter to shower or do laundry, but had never expressed interest in getting housing. While he said Chris had never opened up about specifically why he did not want to explore housing options, he added that this is not uncommon among people experiencing homelessness and is often the result of previous negative experiences.

“If someone’s kind of hesitant about housing, it’s usually something inside their past that they’re not expressing,” he said.

This, Wilkes said, is where the value of relationship building through outreach comes in. Even if someone does not accept services the first, second or even tenth time he offers them, by developing that ongoing relationship he is able to build trust and gain a better understanding of what is holding them back and work to overcome it.

“It’s all about the constant engagement,” he said. “That’s why whenever I do see Chris I stop whatever I am doing and go talk to him – it’s getting the smallest bits of information from him one at a time… putting the small things together to create the whole picture.”

Wilkes said he and his team take a “trauma informed” approach to outreach, keeping in mind how the experiences people living in homelessness have been through contribute to their current state.

“Even if you experienced homelessness for one night, you are already facing a whole lot of trauma which is going to affect mental health,” he said. “And the more time you spend at the street level, you deteriorate – you’re exposed to more trauma, you’re exposed to more difficulties.”

Several members of the outreach team have experienced homelessness themselves and Wilkes said this helps them to effectively engage with people and determine the best services to meet their specific needs.

“They are able to connect with our clients, people at street level, in a different way than somebody who hasn’t experienced homelessness would be,” he said. “The idea that they understand what the struggles are, they understand what the barriers are, they understand the circumstances and they’re able to have that language to speak towards them that the person at the street level can really feel.”

Measuring Progress

Walking down 2nd Street towards Colorado Avenue, Wilkes encountered a man walking down the sidewalk with a duffle bag whom he had not seen in Santa Monica before. He approached the man, introduced himself and asked if he was interested in learning about services.

The man looked surprised by the question at first, but then said, “Yeah man, I’m tired of being on the street.”

Wilkes talked to him for a bit and found out that his mother had passed away and that his mental health had not been in a good place since.

There are many reasons people become homeless and Wilkes said acknowledging that and approaching individuals with empathy and not judgment is part of the solution.

“If my mom passed away I’d be lost in the world too,” Wilkes told the man.

He asked him a few questions and found out the man did not have a valid ID, which is necessary to receive most forms of services. Getting an ID requires a valid mailing address which the man did not have. Wilkes told him he could use the address of the nearby shelter and filled out a form with all of the information he would need. He then gave the man a bus ticket and directions to the nearest DMV.

Before he left, Wilkes pulled out a ziplock bag containing snacks and a water bottle and handed it to the man. All of the outreach workers carry a snack pack, emergency blanket, hygiene products, socks and other essential items in their packs, but Wilkes said they keep track and make sure not to provide them to the same person more than once.

“We don’t want to continue to give out the same items to the same people, at that point we’re only enabling them and keeping them on the street,” he said. “These are items to be given in the intermediate so they can get to the actual, more sustainable resource.”

Throughout the morning Wilkes talked to close to a dozen people. He recorded each interaction into a data system that DTSM uses to monitor the situation and analyze trends. A few individuals, like the man on 2nd Street, were receptive to his offers of services, but others were not. While Wilkes said the goal of this type of work is to get people to utilize services that ultimately lead to housing, there are other, more incremental ways he measures success through developing relationships.

“The goal of outreach is to get individuals experiencing homelessness off the streets and indoors, but the success is a resilient, confiding relationship built with individuals experiencing homelessness – trust is gained, services are accepted,” he said.

In addition to DTSM, Santa Monica also has an outreach team within the police department called the Homeless Liaison Program and the City also funds outreach teams through The People Concern organization. However, as Wilkes pointed out, outreach and getting people to accept services is only half the battle. Navigating the network of services and getting on a path to housing is a whole other challenge, especially with an overall lack of resources.

“There’s a shortage of services at all levels,” said Margaret Willis, a human services administrator for the City of Santa Monica. “There’s not enough outreach, there’s not enough shelter, there’s not enough permanent housing, there’s not enough mental health care, not enough substance centers.”

Meet Our Downtown Long Beach Clean and Safe Employees of the Quarter

Originally posted by Downtown Long Beach Alliance

From Skydiving to Becoming Locally Famous, DLBA Clean & Safe Team Employees of the Quarter Bring a Vibrant Energy to Downtown

DLBA is proud to introduce Sergio Castillo and Aaron Daniel, members of our Clean and Safe Team, who have been selected as Employees of the Quarter. Both came from distant locations to make their homes in Long Beach and have become key figures in the wellbeing of our Downtown community.

Aaron Daniel

Aaron Daniel, our Safety Ambassador of the Quarter, has been working with DLBA for close to a year. “I believe I was hired because they knew I had the personality to relate to people,” he said. Daniel can be found throughout the Downtown five days a week, working on one of the seven Safe Team routes.

Daniel credits his mother for teaching him how to talk to people during his upbringing in Memphis, Tennessee. He put his people skills to work early in life, demonstrating a natural aptitude for entrepreneurship. “I pulled my first car wash customer when I was eight,” he said. “It was the first twenty-dollar bill I ever made. I saved it for two years. By the time I was 12, I had thirty or forty lawns to cut every couple of weeks.”

On a continuous quest for knowledge, Daniel moved to Palm Springs and attended Mayfield College in nearby Cathedral City, becoming a Certified Computer Technician. He then moved to Hollywood to pursue another passion, music.

He relocated to Downtown Long Beach during the pandemic and began focusing on starting his own record label. He is now the sole proprietor of Jibba Jabba Records. So far he has signed a rock band and two rappers, and he is in negotiations with a free jazz artist.

Daniel described what he does as a Safety Ambassador: “My duties are simple. I’m looking out for people, places, and things that could be hazardous to your safety, the public’s safety, my safety and my team’s safety. It could be a light bulb that’s out in a dark place, a section of electric wiring that’s hanging too low, or a street grate someone could trip over.”

He went on to tell us how he enjoys helping folks on the street in Downtown who are having a tough time, giving them moral support, and providing information about services and shelters. “You have to have compassion and be humble,” he said.

Daniel gets great satisfaction from providing safety escorts to anyone in Downtown who requests one. “You can be young or old,” He noted. “If you feel like you’d like a DLBA Safety Ambassador to walk with you, we will escort you to and from your destination.”

When looking for excitement on his off days, Daniel doesn’t mess around. “When I get bored, I jump out of airplanes,” he said. “I’ve done it four times, at Lake Elsinore. Three more and I get my license.”

Daniel also spends lots of time with his daughter, Aarea-Uana, who is undoubtedly learning and benefiting from his caring, can-do, adventurous attitude.   

Sergio Castillo

Sergio Castillo was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was selected as Clean Team Employee of the Quarter after only four months on the job. His supervisors had made note of his diligence in maintaining cleanliness and being helpful to visitors each time he works one of the eight Clean Team routes.

We met with Castillo for some background details just moments after he was the surprise subject of an impromptu video documentary by a group of young journalists who were in Downtown Long Beach for the Student Television Network 2023 Convention. A crowd had gathered as he demonstrated how he went about his duties.

When asked if he felt famous, he laughed, “Well, this is my second interview of the day.”

Castillo was born and raised in Mexico City, along with three older brothers and a sister. After middle school, he was eager to get to work, and wanted to join his brothers who had all moved to the U.S. “I’d always heard how nice it was in the United States, and how one could make easy money – in the early nineties,” he said.

After arriving in Long Beach in 1994, Castillo immediately enrolled at Long Beach City College, immersing himself in the study of English. He also got married and had two children, Coby and Chloe. After getting a good grasp on his second language, he embarked on a career that led him to Downtown.

Castillo took notice of the Clean and Safe Teams last year while working at Dog Haus at 210 East Third Street. He visited DLBA, applied for a position, and was hired in late 2022. He loves the energy of Downtown, especially on weekends. He mentioned how much he is looking forward to his first summer on the job.

Castillo puts in major walking mileage at work and likes to stay on his feet even during down time. He lives near Signal Hill and hikes there regularly. His favorite off-work activity, though, is spending time with his kids.

Want to learn more about our Clean & Safe Team? Visit For Clean & Safe Team employment opportunities, click here.

Golden Triangle Ambassador Program Launches, Providing Enhanced Hospitality and Public Assistance on City Streets

Downtown Pittsburgh – Today, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) announced the official launch of its new Golden Triangle Ambassador program. Operated by Block by Block, with funding from the City of Pittsburgh and community partners, this initiative expands upon the PDP’s existing Clean and Outreach services in Downtown by bringing eleven additional full-time staff to create a new program that brings community service representatives to Downtown streets seven days a week.

“Downtown is Pittsburgh’s heart and soul, and these Ambassadors will play an integral part in helping everyone feel safe and welcome in the heart of our great city,” said Mayor of Pittsburgh Ed Gainey. “We have seen this type of program work in other cities, and we believe that this initiative will be a critical piece of our efforts to help more people be able to enjoy all that Downtown has to offer.”

The Ambassador program launches during a time of rapid change and growth in Downtown, as commuters return to the office at exponential rates and the residential population continues to rise, with an estimated 4,400 new residential units in the pipeline. Meanwhile, visitor foot traffic has nearly recovered to 2019 levels, with an estimated 60,000 people passing through Market Square every week, and restaurants and retailers seeing business that rivals or surpasses pre-pandemic levels.

The Golden Triangle Ambassadors will complement the PDP’s highly successful Clean and Outreach teams and provide an easily identifiable and highly visible presence with branded uniforms and equipment. A well-trained team of eight full-time ambassadors, two supervisors, and a dispatch officer will work in shifts, 7 a.m. – 11 p.m., seven day a week, to deliver hospitality and public assistance, walking and biking patrols, monitoring, reporting, and expanded outreach with local businesses.

“Our ambassadors will greatly enhance our efforts to make Downtown a more welcoming place by adding more trained personnel and key resources to our streets and public spaces,” said PDP President
& CEO Jeremy Waldrup. “It takes a village to get these programs off the ground, and I’m grateful for partners like the Allegheny Conference and the generous support of the City, the philanthropic community, and corporate partners who make this initiative possible.”

The Benter Foundation, a key philanthropic supporter of the Ambassador program, noted a strong alignment with the organization’s mission to enhance life in our city’s urban core.

“Supporting a program like this is an investment in the future of Downtown as a livable, welcoming and thriving community that reflects the region as a whole,” said Foundation President William Benter. Lou Cestello, Pittsburgh regional president for PNC Bank, a corporate sponsor of the Ambassador program, added, “Pittsburgh is PNC’s hometown, and we feel passionately about making this a city where all our constituents can thrive. We are excited to collaborate on this program to improve the experiences of those who live, work, and visit the center of our city. The Ambassadors will be a welcome presence for the Downtown business community as well as the tens of thousands that visit regularly for cultural and sporting events.”

The PDP is extremely grateful for the continued commitment and support of business and program partners who are instrumental to the successful launch of the Golden Triangle Ambassador program, including:
• Benter Foundation
• Buchanan Ingersoll
• Buhl Foundation
• Calgon Carbon
• Citizens
• City of Pittsburgh
• Duquesne Light
• Eden Hall Foundation
• Giant Eagle
• Highmark
• Huntington
• Koppers Inc.
• University of Pittsburgh

About the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership
Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) is a dynamic, nonprofit organization comprised of business and community leaders, property owners, civic organizations, foundations, and residents who provide energy, vision, and advocacy for Downtown Pittsburgh. Working collaboratively with its partners, the PDP strives to create a positive Downtown experience for residents, workers and visitors alike. The PDP’s strategic initiatives include clean and safe services, transportation, and economic development and advocacy. For more information, visit, LinkedIn at, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram: @downtownpitt.

March 22nd Declared Randi Haynes Day in Chattanooga

Photo from the office of Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly

Original article from Local 3 News

Chattanooga woman who helped deliver baby on Broad Street honored with her own day

A woman who helped deliver a healthy baby girl on a downtown sidewalk earlier this month will now have a day to honor her.

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly has proclaimed March 22 as Randi Haynes Day in Chattanooga, honoring Hanyes’ actions the day she jumped into action to help a laboring woman welcome her baby into the world.

Haynes, who happens to be a midwife, was at work that Friday when she rushed to help the pregnant mother safely birth her baby on Broad Street.

“Randi’s actions that day exemplify the extraordinary ways that Chattanoogans care for each other in times of crisis,” Mayor Tim Kelly said. “In recognition of her courage and kindness, I’m proud to proclaim today as Randi Haynes Day in Chattanooga. Thank you, Randi, for serving as an inspiration to us all!”

Couple welcomes baby girl after being born on downtown Chattanooga sidewalk

Randi Haynes, Operations Manager at the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance, poses with mother and baby after helping deliver the baby on a busy downtown street.

Block by Block Operation’s Manager says she was in the right place at the right time to help safely deliver baby

A couple recently welcomed their new baby into the world on a sidewalk in downtown Chattanooga.

For Randi Haynes, the Operations Manager at the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance, it was just another Friday morning at work.

Haynes was waiting for her interview outside the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance building before springing into action to help the pregnant mother.

“I checked my phone it was 9:54 in the morning, and I turn around to a woman screaming, “My daughter’s having her baby. I said that’s great and she said, no, she’s coming out right now.”

Haynes happened to be a midwife and jumped into action.

She opened the car door and saw the mother and part of the baby’s head.

“She gave me one good push, and we had a very healthy baby girl. Just did a little newborn support and stimulation to get her breathing on her own, and everyone was happy and healthy.”

Chris Mosey, the owner of Ignis Glass Studio, said, “Next thing I know someone was screaming my name, I ran outside, and Randi was hunched over inside the car delivering a baby. A lot of stuff has happened on this corner here, but nothing that inspiring and that wonderful; it was very cool.”

Haynes says although the situation was unexpected — she just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

“I think that it shows the power in community and someone paying attention and having the confidence and ability to just jump in and support a mom.”

She says within 8 minutes of the birth, EMS, firefighters, and police were on the scene.

“She and baby get to go home today. Everyone was happy, healthy, and the baby’s doing great.”

See original article and video from Local 3 News. 
Posted on Wednesday March 8, 2023 by Insider Look

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Introducing the Skyway Program

Hospitality and Safety Welcomed Into the Skyways

Four Safety Ambassadors in Downtown Minneapolis posing for a photo

At first glance, the winter streets of Downtown Minneapolis bear a deceptive appearance. The sidewalks aren’t bustling with rushing commuters, nor are visitors braving the fierce winds to explore the city’s architecture. The work week brings an illusion of a deserted metropolis; however, the city is secretly buzzing with people.

The downtown landscape is interconnected through a complex and expansive skyway system. These aerial links connect one business to another, alleviating the residents and commuters from facing the outdoor elements.

Downtown Minneapolis contains key landmarks like the Target Feild Center, Minneapolis Convention Center, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis Orchestra and many others. These large facilities hold concerts, conventions, and sporting events, attracting thousands of visitors daily.

The skyway system serves as a covered walkway, enabling visitors to travel from one side of downtown to the opposite without leaving the comfort of a sheltered walkway. However, navigating the pathways can be a challenging task to the unfamiliar. Because skyways do not mirror the streets, getting to the correct locations may require unexpected turns.

In collaboration with Block by Block, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District worked on a solution to battle the skyway confusion.

“Instead of laying off some of our Ambassadors in the winter, during our slow season, we worked with DID to create the Skyway Program,” shares LaVelle, the general manager at Block by Block, Minneapolis.

Prior to the new program, Safety Ambassadors would serve the community only outdoors, but now they are helping hundreds of people learn the skyway system. The new program creates job stability during the slow season for Ambassadors and provides a valuable resource for those traversing the skywalk.

Received well by the public, the new program is consistently getting emails of appreciation. Ambassadors are always on high alert for individuals who seem lost. The team distributes skyway maps and provide escorts for those who need a little more help getting to their destination.

“I was completely lost in the skyway,” James, an out-of-town visitor, emailed DID. “Elise went out of her way to help me. She must have walked with me for a mile to get me where I was going. She really helped me out.”

Beyond giving directions, the Safety Ambassadors also deliver a safety element to the skywalks. Safety Ambassadors will walk visitors or residents to their final destination, ensuring the individual feels safe and secure.

Business hours are another layer of complexity visitors encounter. Because each business privately owns each skyway, the open hours differ. The skyway map, accessed at, contains a directory of all the skyway business hours.

Next time you visit Downtown Minneapolis, don’t hesitate to ask one of our friendly DID Ambassadors for help. They will quickly get you to your destination, and you can avoid misleading directions from your mobile navigation system!

Posted on Wednesday March 1, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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No Longer the Underdog

Ambassador Spotlight: Uledus Roseman

In 1991, Uledus Roseman left his past in Missouri and arrived in St.Paul, Minnesota, with only $50 in his pocket. He craved a fresh start, but the journey ahead still held many challenges.

Growing up, Uledus did not have an easy upbringing. He was raised by his grandmother in Sedalia, Missouri. Once he turned eight, Uledus was reunited with his mother in Oakland, California. He witnessed the abusive marriage his mother was in, which negatively affected his educational abilities.

While attending Hamilton Junior High School, Uledus’s mother frequently pulled him out of school. Unable to stay on track with his peers, he developed learning differences and a stutter, setting another challenge before him. Uledus was put into the special ed program, preventing him from achieving a high school diploma. Instead, the school awarded him a certificate of attendance.

“I felt like the underdog my whole life,” Uledus shared.

Up until his early thirties, he battled with substance addiction, but he didn’t stay the underdog he presumed himself to be for long. Uledus felt a spiritual guidance to take control of his life and rise like a phoenix.

“I was always so hard on myself, but I have so much to prove. I didn’t want to let people down,” Uledus said. The memories of his two special ed teachers encouraged Uledus to strive for more.

“They invested so much time in me. They were like my moms away from home,” he added, “I wanted to break the underdog mold.”

He enrolled at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College to pursue a degree in addiction counseling. Due to his learning challenges, Uledus had his work cut out for him. He needed to start his degree by taking high school-level English and reading classes.

“I flunked the high school level English twice before I could pass it,” he added, “I even had to get a tutor to help.”

Uledus landed an internship opportunity working at a transitional center while attending college. After graduation, he gained experience working as a chemical dependency tech and a CNA at a veteran’s home before pursuing his career in outreach work.

He joined the Livability Team with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District and Block by Block in 2021. He began helping the city’s vulnerable population by connecting them with the right resources or providing quick assistance.

“This job has changed my life in so many ways,” Uledus shares, “This job is like a Tylenol because whatever you have going on in your life, it doesn’t compare to what some people experience.”

He witnessed some difficult things on the field, but it hasn’t discouraged him from continuously supporting his community. Uledus’s desire to help others rise pushed him to discover a passion for motivational speaking.

He often braves the starling cold while most people are sound asleep to record motivational messages for his YouTube channel. In his videos, Uledus discusses life and creating a vision for the future. Some of his videos include “Living a Clean Life”, “Your Thermostat of Life” and “The Front Row”.

Uledus hopes to inspire others to work hard and overcome their challenges. Because he was deeply motivated by his special ed teachers, he hopes to do the same for other high school students.

“It’s more than just doing motivational speaking. I want to bring that motivational element to anything I do,” Uledus said.

Posted on Monday February 20, 2023 by Insider Look

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Collaboration Effect

Crafting a Safe and Welcoming Minneapolis

Over 34 million people travel to Minneapolis each year looking to enjoy the thriving art scene, outdoor culture, and friendly atmosphere. With tourism on track to return to its pre-pandemic levels throughout 2023 and 2024, the city continues to be well equipt for its visitors by streamlining its cleaning, safety, and hospitality efforts.

The dispatch center, located within the 1st Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), houses a small team of people who operate as the eyes and ears for Downtown Minneapolis around the clock. This group of individuals relays information to the Ambassadors on the streets, assists the unhoused population by connecting them with the right services, and works to prevent crime when possible.

“We work in tandem with law enforcement. For our Ambassadors, we are the extra eyes and ears in case of emergencies or if they need any information, ” describes Lyle, a dispatch team member.

In partnership with 70 plus downtown businesses, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the DID Ambassador program, the dispatch team manages reliable and effective communication between the outlets. This pristine communication network ensures safety and outstanding hospitality on the city streets.

“There are many moving pieces between all the things we monitor and the groups we connect with,” Victoria, the dispatch manager, adds.

With access to 127 cameras in the downtown districts, dispatch can spot unusual behavior and send in the right team. Some instances include requesting Emergency Medical Services to help a hurt individual, reporting an offense to MPD for further investigation, directing Ambassadors away from possible danger, and sending in Livability to assist unhoused community members.

“We have the ability to spot things and get the right people on the scene. For example, we can spot individuals who need welfare checks and send out Livability to check up on them,” says Lyle.

In addition to monitoring the streets, the dispatch center is closely connected to the business security offices through the radio-link system. This radio communication network between the dispatch team and the downtown institutions is another layer of added security. To be a part of the communication radio-link network, businesses must meet certain criteria within their safety protocols, for example participating in roll call during designated times.

Business security can provide more awareness for the dispatch team beyond the outdoor premises with their access to cameras within buildings. During large events such as concerts and sporting events, dispatch will facilitate a perimeter check to ensure the rooftops, skyways, and parking ramps are safe and secure.

“We want to have this high level of awareness to ensure we are on the same page,” Katherine, a dispatch member, adds.

Beyond looking out for the safety of the downtown community and the Ambassadors, the dispatch elevates the quality of the hospitality services. In real-time, the dispatch team can pinpoint answers such as business hours and locations, bus routes and schedules, and much more. This allows Ambassadors to perform excellent hospitality, no matter the question.

“It is great to know that we are not out there on our own,” says Terry, a DID Safety Ambassador.

For more than eleven years, the powerful collaboration between the dispatch team, downtown businesses, law enforcement, and hospitality programming still continues to deliver non-emergency services in Downtown Minneapolis efficiently. All the services working in sync create a safer, cleaner, and friendlier environment for residents and visitors.

“We are the behind-the-scenes resource, making sure we provide extra protection and safety for downtown and our Ambassadors,” Lyle says.

Downtown Ambassadors are the ‘eyes and ears of the street’ keeping Frederick postcard perfect

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post
Dwayne Brooks, a greeter with the Downtown Frederick Ambassador Program, hands out maps of the town to area businesses people like Gillian Berluti, manager of Firestone’s Market on North Market Street.

Originally posted by Joeseph Peterson, Special to The News-Post

It’s no secret, downtown Frederick has a look and feel straight out of central casting for a Hallmark holiday movie.

The state tourism promoter, Visit Maryland, describes it as “a thriving 50-block historic district for shopping, dining, art, architecture, and entertainment.”

And it’s one of those charming historic districts that not only attracts visitors from the wider region but hums with the ebb and flow of local daily life.

On a typical day, the sidewalks are bustling, the shops are inviting, and the aromas from busy restaurants and bistros entice passersby to come in and satisfy their appetites.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, none of this comes as news to you. But consider this: 50 blocks. That is a large area for a small city to keep up that level of charm week in and week out, year after year. Vibrant downtowns don’t just happen by accident, after all. And while maintaining and operating Frederick’s historic district is the work of many, there is a crack team of just a few workers who are taking on some of the heavy lifting to keep it postcard perfect.

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post

“We’re out here walking the streets, we’re meeting people, we’re greeting them and talking to them, making them feel welcome,” said Dwayne Brooks, a supervisor of that team known as the Downtown Ambassadors.

Since late 2021, the Downtown Frederick Partnership has managed the city’s contract with Block by Block, a hospitality service provider in more than 200 cities across the country, to run the Downtown Ambassador Program in Frederick.

What started in 2018 as a downtown safety and services initiative by the city and the Ausherman Family Foundation led to the creation of a committee tasked with investigating the feasibility of an ambassador program here.

DFP executive director Kara Norman, who chaired the committee at the time, said DFP had been hoping to have an ambassador program for years. While a fully staffed cleaning and hospitality program doesn’t come cheap, she said, “It was that initiative that really got the momentum going to help us get the funding necessary.”

Now a fully realized team of four in the winter and six in the summer, these ambassadors are tasked with making downtown Frederick cleaner, safer and welcoming from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every Wednesday through Sunday. Brooks’ role centers around hospitality, a broad term for myriad services that require hefty doses of local knowledge, social skills, resource training and a fair amount of tact.

“We get a lot of compliments,” Brooks says, noting that several times a day people thank him for what he and his team do. “We talk to everybody — visitors, residents that live in the area, the homeless population. We know a lot of them by first name, and they know us.”

The hospitality team spends most of its time giving directions, fulfilling requests to accompany solo guests to their cars at night, orienting visitors to parking facilities and, in a manner of speaking, making sure folks know where the sidewalk ends when they’ve enjoyed a few too many.

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post

Luckily, Brooks was on duty when a man in a nice suit, who had evidently knocked back a few too many, started stumbling into the street, trying to remember where he parked his car. The man was able to get assistance not only to get out of the immediate danger of the street but to find a better way home than driving a car in his condition.

“We don’t know the impact of what could have happened, had Dwayne not happened to meet him and get him on a better path,” Norman said, “so to me, it’s really impactful to think about. … There’ve been great stories,” Norman added, recalling an incident where an older woman, at lunch with her friends, was unable to physically make it back to her car. “The ambassadors connected with her, got her a chair, got her some water and stayed with her until her friends were able to go get the car and bring it to her.” The ambassador team later received a thank-you note from the woman’s daughter, saying “how appreciative she was that people took such good care of her mother,” Norman recalled.

As of September 2022, about a year into the Downtown Frederick Ambassador Program, Block by Block recorded 730 instances where hospitality assistance was fulfilled, including 151 times when a hospitality escort was provided. In that same time period, the cleaning crew ambassadors saw to the removal of biohazard material 549 times, as well as the collection of hundreds of cigarette butts. Well, 602 to be precise — and Block by Block builds its reputation on being precise.

Checking in with businesses in the historic district is another function of hospitality the ambassadors provide. They see whether there’s any way they can support business owners and staff with any public needs, as well as restock the contact cards usually displayed inside the shops that feature information on how to reach an ambassador, should the need arise.

“We are the eyes and ears of the street,” said Bryan Dixon, Block by Block’s operations manager for the Downtown Frederick Ambassador Program. Per their September 2022 report, the ambassadors made contact with local businesses 486 times, in addition to removing graffiti, stickers and more than 500 bags of trash.

“It’s been great. The business owners love us here,” said Dixon, who previously worked with an ambassador program in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor neighborhood. “The ambassadors in Frederick are great. They’ve built a great relationship with the business owners and guests before I even got here. I’m just helping to keep it going, keep them motivated.”

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post

Posted on Friday January 20, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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A Memorable Moment

Ambassador Spotlight: Larry Willaims

Imagine showing up to work on a day that feels just like any other but encountering one of the most prolific artists in history, who happens to notice your work. For starters, the odds of running into a large celebrity name in Downtown Minneapolis aren’t very great, and to be appreciated by one is even rarer. But that’s exactly the type of day Larry Williams experienced on January 21st of 2016.

On a Thursday, Larry arrived at the MDID/Block by Block (Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District) headquarters and got ready for his shift. He headed out with his fellow teammates to the streets of Downtown Minneapolis to greet residents and visitors and clean up the blocks. While he was hard at work, sweeping the area by the Dakoda Jazz Club, he was being noticed.

Later that day, the MDID Ambassadors were approached by none other than Prince himself. Throughout his success, he kept his hometown of Minneapolis close to his heart. He valued the work the Ambassadors were providing for the city, so he invited the workers to a private show at his home. Larry was a part of the small VIP list of Ambassadors who were welcomed to attend, but he was considering not going.

“I can’t go to it. I got nothing to wear, and I can’t afford to miss work,” Larry recalls saying.

That is when Anna Schmoll, current Regional Vice President but MDID Operations Manager at the time, stepped in to convince Larry to attend this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It was very short notice, and the performance was going to take place during the evening shifts, but when will anyone get an opportunity like this again?” Anna said. “I even offered to give rides to those who didn’t have one,” she added.

Anna, Larry, and several other Ambassadors waited at the back of the line until they were rushed to the front of the room to watch the performance. The private event only had 200 attendees, some of whom were the Ambassadors.

“It was just Prince playing the piano. No band or any other distractions,” Larry added about the experience. He revealed this to be one of his most memorable moments, and he was thankful Anna encouraged him to attend.

Eleven years later, Larry Williams still works as an MDID Ambassador at Block by Block. He tried many different roles, from cleaning to safety, and currently works as a Special Project Amabassador. Larry valued the compassionate and understanding nature of management. Beyond the encouragement to make memories, the current leadership team worked with Larry on his work schedule flexibility.

“I am a single father with two little kids. A two-year-old and a three-year-old,” Larry said.

He shared that due to the difficulties of finding child care, and his father’s stroke, he was granted a leave of absence by the management team to prioritize his family first. Larry is grateful to work among caring individuals.

“Not once did they question me about the time I needed off. They saw me as a person and understood my situation,” added Larry.

Employers play a crucial role in the job satisfaction of employees. It remains highly important to Block by Block to hire and promote managers who strive to create relationships with their employees. Whether it’s’ encouraging an employee to partake in an experience or being flexible and understanding, everything adds up to a fun and rewarding work environment.

“Everybody faces a challenge in their life, and building relationships with employees makes them more comfortable communicating that with us,” Anna commented.

Posted on Friday January 13, 2023 by Insider Look

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The Livability Network

Downtown Minneapolis Caring For All Its Residents

Minneapolis Livability Team Member Helping Man

Out of 75,729 total interactions made by the Ambassadors in 2022, 3,746 were interactions between a special outreach team and residents requiring assistance. This data highlights that hospitality services offered in Downtown Minneapolis extend beyond friendly greetings or location findings. MDID and other groups in Downtown Minneapolis are working to extend hospitality to all members of the community, including the city’s most vulnerable residents.

In 2016, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID), in collaboration with Block by Block, added social outreach services to its Ambassador programming – also known as the Livability Team. The team is comprised of four passionate individuals who work around the clock, reaching out to people and connecting them with resources offered in Hennepin County.

The job fulfilled by the Livability Team takes patience and positivity. It’s more than showing up to work and going through the motions. Being a Livability team member requires grit. It is a career that takes compassion, communication, kindness, and much more. Many traits in these team members contribute to their ability to help others.

These four individuals are the architects of networking. They establish connections with various community programs designed to help the unsheltered population, and they hold a vast knowledge of all the different resources people can be connected with. The Livability Team bridges the gap between those who require assistance and the organizations that offer aid. In addition, the team has direct contact with the Hennepin Country social worker to deliver the right help straightaway.

The Livability Team ensures when they are out on the field, they meet each individual where they are. While maintaining their professionalism, sometimes this requires using the same dialect as the person they are communicating with or maintaining the same eye level height. Meeting people where they are, requires seeing people on equal ground and locking away any presumptions.

“Being slow to speak but quick to listen,” Uledus, a Livability team member of almost two years, shares to be his number one rule.

Being present and self-aware is key to providing the proper outreach to the individuals requiring assistance. “Building trust is essential and takes time. But it is also important to recognize just because they trust you doesn’t mean they will trust others,” Clarence, another Livability team member, says.

The team begins their day by going to locations where people tend to spend prolonged periods of time and perform wellness checks. This includes making sure everyone is well and not requiring medical assistance. While making the first round of check-ins, it is also a great time to see if they can provide quick aid, like handing out gloves, hand warmers, water, and snacks. The workday begins by showing care.

Once the initial rounds of check-ins are complete, Livability Ambassadors scout individuals who they have been in contact with previously. Each Livability team member keeps a list of individuals they connect with regularly. This allows them to form consistent communication and build meaningful relationships. All interactions are tracked through Block by Block’s SMART System to record any resources individuals were connected with or the progress made.

It’s important to recognize that asking for help is easier said than done, which is the case for many residents. In many instances, the Livability Ambassadors will only engage in brief conversations to show their presence; over time, they will aim to develop a meaningful relationship.

“People have difficulty asking for help or accepting it. Some people need help just to ask for help.” Clarence expresses.

“We also do not want to enable people. We want to inspire and educate them to turn their own lives around.” Uledus adds.

The Liveability Team works hard to help as many people as possible, and sometimes getting an individual to accept help or take a step in the right direction is a huge victory.

Clarence experienced firsthand the impact he brings to the community. Recently, he was stopped by a man he failed to recognize. Clarence was unaware that he was being approached by someone who he had helped a year ago. The man was filled with emotions. He thanked Clarance for helping him find a place, a job and connecting him with immigrant resources.

“We are not the solution, but more the facilitator to get individuals the right help. We are just the start of the solution, but we can act the mitigator or be the middle person for whatever is needed,” Uledus addresses a common misconception about his role.

“We are also not enforcers. We do not push anything on individuals or remove them from certain locations. We are simply there to help in any way we can,” Clarence adds.

Minneapolis has hundreds of resources the Livability team members can connect people with. Their connection list includes St.Stephen’s Street Outreach, House of Charity, Hennepin Country Shelter Team, and COPE, to list a few. The organizations provide a long list of services and support that includes meals and showers, shelters and housing, health care, mental health care, trauma care, life emergency assistance, literacy assistance, and more.

The Liveability Team understands the importance of establishing a network. It is crucial to work with others. Fruitful networking adds more resources to the list and empowers others to help in any way possible. Setting a precedent for networking unlocks new ways of supporting those needing assistance. It broadens the scope of reaching more individuals with the right help.

“Understanding that you are not the solution is key. Collaboration is the force behind our success. This creates a movement for people to help as well. It is a powerful thing. ” Uledus affirms.

Just as with any profession, the Livability Team faces its own challenges, but it’s maintaining a positive outlook that helps them overcome adversity.

“It is hard work, yet it is important to go above and beyond. It is not about doing what is required but doing more.” Clarence says.

The Livability Team encourages the Minneapolis community to continue to be open-minded.

“Don’t judge. We are always quick to judge others, but being unhoused or facing a difficult time can happen to anyone.” Uledus shares. “It takes time to build trust, and most individuals are not quick to ask for help, especially if there are factors like mental health and substance abuse at play.”

“Being kind can get you a long way!” Clarance adds.

Posted on Monday December 19, 2022 by Insider Look

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The SMART Way to Hospitality

Telling a Story Through Data Tracking

In 2022 alone, the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID) Ambassadors provided 58,351 hospitality assists to visitors and residents in Downtown Minneapolis. This is a prime example of the data tracked through the SMART System, representing the incredible work completed by the Ambassadors.

The SMART System, which stands for Statistics Management and Ambassador Reporting Technology, is a technological tool for downtown districts developed by Block by Block. The SMART System supports field managers in their planning, informing them of the most current information, and it creates a sense of accomplishment for the Ambassadors. It provides data collection, accountability, and reporting all in one spot. The SMART System is constantly evolving, delivering more accurate data and tracking tools to stay up to date with the needs of our customers.

Some of the most commonly used functions within the SMART System include basic activity entry, maintenance reporting, Ambassador walk paths, incident reporting, persons of interest interaction, activity reporting by property/business/parcel, and so much more. This tool allows managers to account for the areas covered at any time in the downtown region. It tells a real-time story of what is happening in the districts with data, and it’s highly customizable to fit the landscape and needs of any downtown.

“Without the SMART System, we would not have an account of our work. The SMART System helps us create the story,” Anna Schmoll answered when asked why she believed it beneficial to management. She also explained how the SMART System helps with coaching and improves activities throughout the day because there is always room to grow.

Not only do supervisors and managers at Block by Block find the system useful, but many Ambassadors appreciate the capability to track their efforts. “It lets us know what work is being done and helps us collaborate better with other team members. I am able to keep track of any escorts or interactions I make or log anything that needs work,” Crystal Krajewski, a Safety Ambassador, shared.

Lastly, the Smart System is a reporting and accountability tool for clients. They can utilize it to best suit their needs, from being very involved to not. They can access the system daily or request reports from the Block by Block operational office. Tracking this information allows clients to make effective strategic decisions backed by data.

Throughout 2022, the Ambassadors provided various services to the residents, removed and cleared many unwanted materials from public spaces, and so much more. Watch the video below to see the exact stats assembled through the SMART System. Imagine how different Downtown Minneapolis would be if it were not for the services provided!

Posted on Friday December 2, 2022 by Insider Look

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The Faces Behind a Welcoming Downtown Experience

The Different Types of Ambassadors and The Impact They Create

Are you aware of all the moving pieces that make Downtown Minneapolis clean and friendly?

The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID) works with Block by Block to deliver hospitality services to the streets of downtown. The incredible people behind the daily grind are the MDID Ambassadors. They are responsible for specific initiatives with some overlap in their tasks. Let’s break down the various functions to highlight the impact the Ambassadors make in Downtown Minneapolis. 

Safety Ambassador’s role includes escorting citizens, helping them locate their destination, assisting them in finding their parked vehicle, distributing maps and other MDID information, checking in with local businesses, and providing support to various MDID pop-ups. In addition to their hospitality work, these Ambassadors also aid in keeping the city clean and act as the eyes and ears for others. Because they are actively walking the streets and skyways, they communicate with Ambassadors outside their task force if further assistance is required.They can request help for larger projects like graffiti removal or connect citizens in need with the Livability Ambassadors.

The Cleaning Ambassadors’ main priority is to keep the streets clean and welcoming while creating a friendly atmosphere. They’re the force behind the polished feel of Downtown Minneapolis. These Ambassadors work on freeing the walkways of trash, clearing undesired substances, removing unauthorized posters and stickers, wiping down public surfaces, and emptying the recycling bins and trash cans. 

Even though the Cleaning Ambassadors focus the majority of their efforts on cleaning up, some tasks are left explicitly to the Special Projects Ambassadors. This task force works on any project specially requested by MDID or any businesses in the downtown districts. The projects include removing graffiti from buildings and other surfaces or polishing public areas to prepare them for the upcoming season.

Livability Ambassadors are a unique extension to the rest of the team. They act as a connection between individuals in need and resources provided by Hennepin County.  The Livability Ambassadors patrol the streets to detect individuals needing assistance, perform wellness checks and connect them with shelters, social workers, and treatment centers. They hand out snacks and water throughout the year, and during the winter months, they distribute socks, gloves, and hand warmers.

The different teams of Ambassadors offer various services and hospitality solutions downtown. This breakdown of responsibilities has successfully functioned in Minneapolis for over 13 years. Block by Block can tailor the Ambassador positions to fit the landscape of your downtown to ensure you receive the necessary services in your unique urban environment!

Posted on Monday November 28, 2022 by Insider Look

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Hot or Cold, The MDID Ambassadors Continue Onward

Insider Look: The Work MDID Ambassadors Accomplish in the Winter

MDID Safety Ambassador out on the street of Downtown Minneapolis

It is this time of the year again when the sun goes down early and the city glimmers in golden lights. The holiday season enters Downtown Minneapolis and brings holiday cheer and colder weather. The MDID Ambassadors walk the streets with a smile, assisting visitors in the city. Even when the temperature in Minneapolis drops below zero degrees Fahrenheit, Ambassadors are still showing up to work.

The cold temperatures introduce new challenges to the downtown streets. The sidewalks glaze over with ice, the roads hide beneath the snow, and the freezing winds drift between the buildings. These challenges can yield a not-so-pleasant experience in Downtown Minneapolis, but that is why our Ambassadors are there to help!

Beyond their daily efforts in the winter, the Ambassadors are also on the lookout for slippery and icy surfaces. They cover those areas with sand to ensure the safety of the citizens. In addition, they occasionally remove snow from corners if other businesses or the city hasn’t tended to them.

One of the more notable jobs the Ambassadors provide in cold temperatures is motorist assists. With consent from the owner, Ambassadors can jumpstart the vehicle or shovel it out of snow. This comes in handy due to the severity of the weather experienced in Minneapolis. In addition, our Safety Ambassadors continue to provide hospitality services to people looking to avoid the elements and get to their destination quickly.

Lastly, the Livability team works extra hard during the winter months to help individuals caught in a difficult time. They conduct safety checks on people who spend prolonged periods outside to ensure they aren’t suffering from hypothermia or dehydration. The Livability team will also hand out emergency kits that contain heat-reflective blankets and other winter resources like gloves and hand warmers.