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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 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!

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. 

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

More Than Clean: Building a Workforce from Camden Residents

As Streets Are Beautified, Residents Hone Job Skills, Plan for Future

By Niell Borowski for Tap into Camden

CAMDEN, NJ – When Francisco Santana shows up for work, the 6 a.m. darkness cloaks the litter and, at times, the used needles and excrement scattered around Seventh and Benson Streets near Cooper University Hospital.

As other downtown workers begin to arrive two and three hours later, much of the ugliness that greeted Santana is gone, never to be noticed by them.

Santana, 70, who in late October celebrated his 10th anniversary as a member of a brigade that has become known as the “Yellow Jackets,” each weekday morning makes sure the urban debris is sitting in his bright yellow trash bucket rather than in public view.

Like other Yellow Jackets who sweep, rake, power wash and landscape the city’s Business Improvement District, Santana gets to know residents and businesses on his route and builds a bond.

“They know me, have respect for me,” said the Camden resident, who moved here from Puerto Rico in 1966. “They don’t throw litter.”


Beyond Cleaning: Solid Employment

For residents like Santana, the Clean and Safe Program has given him full-time employment with benefits and, for some employees, career advancement. The program is financed by an assessment paid by businesses and industries in the district as well as larger nonprofits and apartments with five or more units.

Now the city is emulating the program – with resident employment and advancement as a main goal – with its Clean Corridors and Safe Parks Program to clean and maintain parks and business areas that are beyond the coverage of the Yellow Jackets.

The city announced its two-year program in late September, with temporary employment for 60 people paid by the federal $3.5 million in American Rescue Plan’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

“The program objective is to create a pipeline to permanent employment, with Camden residents having first priority,” according to the city’s announcement. Before the temporary employment ends, the city says it will work with government, nonprofit and corporate partners to find the aides permanent employment.

Late last month, about 45 people had been hired with 15 new hires to go, city Public Works Director Keith Walker told TAPinto Camden in an interview. They are paid $17 an hour and work 32 hours a week.

Each Clean Corridors employee will work six months, gaining experience and demonstrating how they work.

“It’s like a big interview process,” Walker said of the program. “They (potential employers) see these guys work.”

Walker recalled in October working on a clean-up near Covanta, the trash incinerator in South Camden. A Covanta supervisor approached Walker and asked if he had any prospects for him from the city workforce. Walker did, and the employee was interviewed by Covanta.

The Public Works Department has three employees retiring this year and, as the staff moves around to fill the vacancies, Walker expects to look to the Clean Corridor group to possibly fill the permanent city jobs.

As the workers may be hoping for future employment, they are beautifying the parks and other parts of the city.

“The area is looking a lot cleaner than what it was,” Walker said.


Employment Mobility

Employment by the Yellow Jackets of the Camden Special Services District can be permanent.

Santana, the Yellow Jacket near Cooper Hospital, expects to work three more years before retiring. His cleaning partner, Khliah Best of Camden, has worked about six months for the Yellow Jacket program.

“It’s a lot better than I thought it would be,” said Best, 23, who at first figured that the position would be temporary before moving to another job.

“I would rather stay here,” said the Camden High graduate.

The Special Services District contracts with Block by Block, a company that provides downtown and other city cleaning in more than 100 communities. Block by Block, a subsidiary of Nashville-based SMS Holdings, is the employer of the Yellow Jackets, with the special services district paying a fee for services.

Near Third and Market Streets, Johnny Diaz walked behind one of three of the special services district’s “Billy Goats” – a large, wheeled vacuum cleaner that sucks up street litter, but comes into especially heavy use in the autumn to collect leaves into their giant bags.

Diaz, has been a Yellow Jacket for 11 years and the Camden resident soon will move to Florida. But Diaz, 66, is not going into retirement. When he gets to Orlando, he will join the Block by Block program in that city.

The Camden program says it seeks to promote from within.

One Camden Block by Block worker was recruited to fill in for a supervisor in Philadelphia at the city’s Sports Complex Special Services District around the stadiums in South Philadelphia. When his temporary spot ended, he returned to Camden and was promoted.

Other Yellow Jackets have moved to permanent positions in City Hall and the Public Works Department.

Those who are current Yellow Jackets are encouraged – and rewarded – to recruit new workers. If they refer a new employee, they are paid a bonus of $200 once the employee has been on the job for 90 days.

Two men working with Diaz near Third and Market Streets were recruited through the bonus program. James Ingalls, who has worked for the program for less than a year, encouraged his cousin, Vernon Ingalls, and friend, Chris Horton, to apply. They were hired and in late October had been on the job for three weeks.

They all laughed about Ingalls’ potential “bounty” for bringing them into the Yellow Jackets, asking Ingalls what he would do for them once he collects.

Camden’s Own Ambassadors

“Hiring Camden city residents has multiple benefits,” explained Nathaniel Echeverria, executive director of the Camden Special Services District. “They know the community. They know the place,” Echeverria told TAPinto Camden.

Besides the Yellow Jacket moniker, the district employees are “Ambassadors,” whose jobs include greeting visitors and offering advice on where to eat and directions for the lost, said Echeverria, who joined the district in September 2021 after working in economic development and downtown association positions elsewhere.

Thirty-two full-time Yellow Jackets work in downtown Camden, earning $17.50 an hour with benefits, and supervisors such as team leads make $21 an hour. They range in age from 18 to 70 and 27 are men and five are women.

Cleaning is not their only maintenance duty. They plant flowers with the Tree Foundation and others have planted trees in the business district, which goes from the Delaware River to the Cooper River and from Elm to Clinton streets.

The district has the workers sample different restaurants in Camden so, when asked for a recommendation, they can speak from experience.

And, as the holidays approach, the Yellow Jackets will be putting up light displays in parts of the district.

Mayor London Breed Announces Expansion of Ambassadors and Public Safety Support

Plan includes increase in street ambassadors throughout Downtown and neighborhoods, additional attendant presence in transit stations, and civilian police personnel to free up Police Officers

Origially posted by

San Francisco, CA – Today Mayor London N. Breed joined members of the Board of Supervisors and City officials to announce an expansion of community ambassadors and civilian police department personnel to help improve public safety in San Francisco.

In total, the expansion will add up to 150 new ambassadors and attendants, which are expected to be a mix of Mid-Market/Tenderloin Safety Ambassadors, orange jacketed SF Welcome Ambassadors, BART service attendants, and SFPD Community Ambassadors, which are retired police officers that serve in a supportive role to offer an added layer of safety. The new Ambassador and attendant deployment will expand coverage in and around the Downtown area, including at BART and Muni Metro Stations and city operated parking garages, as well as in city neighborhoods, including the Mission.

As part of Mayor Breed’s plans to ramp up public safety efforts to aid the City’s economic recovery, ambassadors have already been deployed in the Mid-Market and Tenderloin, Downtown and tourist areas. Currently, the City has allocated funding for over 250 ambassadors.

The expansion will phase in as hiring and deployment allows, with the first ambassadors and transit station attendants expected to be deployed within the next six weeks.

“We are working every day to improve safety in this City,” said Mayor London Breed. “San Francisco has a significant police staffing shortage, so we need to be more creative in ways that deliver a positive and welcoming experience on our street and while also ensuring our sworn officers can do their jobs. By deploying more ambassadors and hiring more staff who can do support work for our officers out in the field, we can better respond to residents, workers, and visitors who want our city to be cleaner and safer.”

In addition to the expansion of ambassadors and attendants, the Mayor’s Plan calls for a significant expansion of SFPD Police Service Aides (PSAs), which are civilian positions that provide supportive duties to police officers, but do not hold peace officer powers such as carrying a firearm. PSAs allow sworn officers to focus on responding to calls for services, investigating crimes, and conducting community policing efforts like walking foot beats.

“The SFPD is committed to public safety. Our public safety commitment goes beyond enforcing laws and making arrests. It also means creative solutions that most effectively and efficiently reduce community harms while engaging with, and building relationships with, our diverse communities,” said Police Chief Bill Scott. “The ambassador program is a great example of how we have taken community input and collaborated with Mayor Breed to implement innovative, non-traditional policing solutions and strategies to enhance the safety of San Francisco and reduce community harms. While ambassadors are not meant to replace sworn police officers, they act as a force multiplier to enhance the safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of the sworn police resources we do have.”

The increased presence at BART and Muni Metro stations is a part of a long partnership between the City, SFMTA and BART, which includes the commitment in providing the safest ridership experience as riders make key transfers between the two system’s stations.

BART has a successful model of contracting with restroom and elevator attendants to provide a welcoming environment for transit riders. BART began using elevator attendants in 2018 and restroom attendants earlier this year, with data showcasing the effectiveness of staff presence in keeping areas clean and free of unwanted behavior. This plan funds additional attendants for downtown San Francisco transit stations to provide a presence during all operating hours.

“These extra attendants will help welcome families, workers, tourists, and all types of riders as they arrive downtown,” said BART General Manager Bob Powers.“Having a dedicated attendant to welcome riders and chat with families while they wait for a train will boost our visible presence and enhance our team approach to connecting people in need with public services. More attendants will allow BART safety staff such as our police officers, Transit Ambassadors, and Crisis Intervention Specialist to focus on their work walking trains and stations responding to calls for service and the needs of vulnerable populations.”

“Like our regional transit partners and city agencies, safety is also our top priority and we look forward to this bold expansion of more community ambassadors and public safety presence deployed at some of the city’s most busy and visited areas,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, Director of Transportation. “This new expansion will enhance the public safety for all San Franciscans and visitors to feel safer while walking on our city’s streets, parking at our garages and traveling through the various shared Muni and BART transit platforms and stations.”

The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management will plan and coordinate activities and deployments of ambassadors. Deployments are expected to be dynamic based on need, pedestrian traffic, and community feedback. Ambassadors are part of a citywide network of resources focused on connecting people to services and promoting healthy street conditions.

“Community ambassadors have demonstrated that they are helpful in keeping streets welcoming and accessible,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, Executive Director, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management. “San Francisco intends to utilize ambassadors in concert with public safety and street crisis resources to promote healthy and safe streets for all who live, work or visit our City.”

“We are excited to expand the ambassador program – vital in providing a visible presence and point of contact for people and visitors navigating our downtown and core, and in supporting our employees as they return to the office,” said Kate Sofis, Executive Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “As San Francisco’s shopping and dining scene picks up and with the many public activations coming online, we want people to have a warm and welcoming experience wherever they go in our beautiful city.”

These initiatives will help to benefit San Francisco’s economic recovery both by supporting Downtown and tourist areas, as well as the City’s neighborhood corridors.

“Visitors from around the country and the world are flocking to San Francisco’s amazing destinations, and this is yet another step the City is taking to welcome visitors to an enhanced experience in this incredible City,” said District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin,who represents the neighborhoods of Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf and Downtown.

“District 6 residents have been demanding for more safety protocols and I applaud Mayor Breed’s decision to increase the presence of community and safety ambassadors during this unprecedented time of staffing shortages,” said District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey. “By bringing on these new ambassadors, the City’s police officers will be able to better respond to crimes and our high-traffic and frequently visited locations will have an added layer of public safety. I look forward to seeing the positive change these workers will bring to our communities and hope we can continue to hire more so that all of San Francisco’s neighborhoods can benefit.”

“San Francisco is experiencing a dire police staffing shortage at a time of increasing public concern about safety,” said District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “It will take years to build back the police department need, but in the meantime the Mayor and her team are to be commended for finding creative ways to get more officers out into the field and more eyes on the street.”

“Conditions in the Mission have been unacceptable for quite some time. We have been working to restore a healthy atmosphere in the neighborhood while working hard not to further punish people for being poor,” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “Striking this right balance isn’t always easy. I believe community ambassadors will help us accomplish both goals and am so excited we will shortly have dozens of ambassadors walking the streets to help people feel safe and restore some vibrancy to the neighborhood.”

“I support the investment in creative and innovative ways to keep communities safe and better served, such as the Community Ambassadors and Police Service Aides. They can provide merchants and the public the sense of safety and welcoming environment that will support community and economic activities that this season brings. Our neighborhood commercial corridors in District 7 need this kind of support as they recover from the last couple of years,” said District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar.

“Here in the heart of the city, Union Square, we understand that there are many pieces of the puzzle when it comes to ensuring a successful recovery, post COVID,” said Marisa Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Union Square Alliance. “The Mayor’s efforts to support the Tourism Ambassadors, Police Ambassadors, and Urban Alchemy serve San Francisco’s collective goal to create a healthy and safe downtown for everyone to enjoy, which in turn will allow our entire city to thrive for years to come.  We are better when we work together.”

City of West Hollywood Announces Block by Block Security Ambassadors Program Kiosks

Originally posted by the City of Hollywood

The City of West Hollywood is pleased to announce staffed kiosks throughout the City to support the recent expansion of its Block by Block program. In recent weeks, the City launched three kiosks and it has recently added two more kiosk locations. Two additional locations are scheduled to be implemented within the next 30 days, which will bring the total number of kiosks citywide to seven. Concurrently, the Block by Block program has added personnel; there are now approximately 85 Security Ambassadors.

Commercial district kiosks function daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; the kiosk at West Hollywood Park is staffed daily from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.; and the Plummer Park kiosk is staffed daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The aim of the kiosks is to expand the City’s supplemental safety services, as well as to provide an extra level of hospitality to businesses, community members, and visitors.

Kiosk locations are as follows in the City’s commercial districts:

(1)  N. La Brea and Santa Monica Boulevard/The Gateway

(2)  Melrose Avenue at Westmount Drive/Design District (In-Progress)

(3)  Santa Monica Boulevard at N. Robertson Boulevard/Rainbow District

(4)  Santa Monica Boulevard at Westmount Drive/Rainbow District

(5)  Sunset Boulevard at Sunset Plaza Drive/Sunset Strip (In-Progress)

In the City’s main public parks, kiosk locations are:

(6)  West Hollywood Park

(7)  Plummer Park

The City of West Hollywood’s rollout of staffed kiosks for its Block by Block Security Ambassadors program is focused on safety as well as hospitality in West Hollywood with specific emphasis on supporting a more robust and accessible presence where people shop, walk, and enjoy recreation. Security Ambassadors at kiosks will be able to assist community members and visitors and, in emergencies, can work in partnership with law enforcement personnel at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. Security Ambassadors will work seamlessly, as well, to:

  • Maintain uniformed foot and bicycle patrols throughout all City neighborhoods, including a new program expansion into residential neighborhoods;
  • Provide in-person responses 24/7 to non-violent calls for service — support is always available by phone or text at (323) 821-8604;
  • Conduct safety escorts for residents, businesses, and visitors; and
  • Offer helpful guidance to community members and visitors about City information, directions, parking, and more.

During the next several weeks, the City of West Hollywood will be sharing additional information about the Block by Block Security Ambassadors program including a new toll-free number and public Security Ambassadors program location. Community members are encouraged to get to know the City’s Block by Block Security Ambassadors, who will be in attendance at the upcoming Kids Fair on Saturday, October 29, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard, as well as at other upcoming events.

About | Block by Block Security Ambassadors Program – The City of West Hollywood partners with Block by Block on its Security Ambassadors program, which has a direct positive impact on safety and neighborhood livability. First established as a City program in 2013, West Hollywood Block by Block Security Ambassadors provide a highly visible uniformed presence at the street level and leverage the effectiveness of local law enforcement by working in collaboration with personnel from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. In addition to supplemental safety services, Block by Block Security Ambassadors get to know West Hollywood’s neighborhoods and assist in providing an extra level of hospitality to businesses, residents, and visitors and help to address and respond to quality-of-life concerns in the community. Security Ambassadors receive trainings on topics such as active shooters, cultural diversity and sensitivity, administration of Narcan to treat narcotic overdose, mental health first aid, sexual harassment, emergency/disaster preparedness, and more. The Block by Block Security Ambassador Hotline provides access to free, 24/7 support by phone or text at (323) 821-8604; a new toll-free number will be introduced in the coming weeks. For additional information, please visit

City of West Hollywood Expands 30 Additional Block by Block Security Ambassadors

Originally posted by Weho Times

At a regular West Hollywood City Council meeting on Monday, September 19, 2022, the city council unanimously approved a Block by Block Security Ambassadors program update expanding its Block by Block program with 30 additional Security Ambassadors. The Block by Block program has hired and trained 20 new Security Ambassadors, one Team Lead, and one Operations Supervisor. It is on-track to be fully staffed by October 1, 2022, with a total of approximately 85 Security Ambassadors.

The approved motion follows City Council approval on Monday, June 27, 2022, of the City’s FY 2022-23 & 2023-24 two-year operating budget and capital work plan, which directed an increase to the number of Block by Block Security Ambassadors by 30 positions. Additional direction regarding the expansion was provided by the City Council on Monday, August 1, 2022 when it approved the related amendment to the Block by Block agreement for services.

“The City’s Block by Block Security Ambassadors program will continue to provide bicycle and foot patrols throughout the City’s commercial districts,” said City of West Hollywood City Manager David Wilson. “The program is adding dedicated foot patrols in residential neighborhoods citywide and is staffing new kiosks in selected locations. Block by Block Security Ambassadors work in close alignment with Deputies from our Sheriff’s Station, as well as our City’s Code Enforcement and Homeless Initiative teams, among others. The collaboration positively impacts quality of life in West Hollywood.”

Block by Block Security Ambassadors work in collaboration with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station to provide supplemental safety services and they get to know West Hollywood’s neighborhoods to assist in providing an extra level of hospitality to businesses, residents, and visitors. Expansion of the program aims to provide an additional public presence to proactively reduce crime.

Block by Block Security Ambassadors are highly focused on safety and hospitality in West Hollywood with specific emphasis on:

· Maintaining uniformed foot and bicycle patrols throughout the City’s business districts and residential neighborhoods;

· Providing in-person responses 24/7 to non-violent calls for service;

· Conducting safety escorts for residents, businesses, and visitors; and

· Offering helpful guidance to community members and visitors about City information, directions, parking, and more.

In consultation with the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, the City of West Hollywood will implement four new Block by Block Security Ambassador kiosks by October 1, 2022, at or near the following intersections: (1) Santa Monica Boulevard at N. Robertson Boulevard; (2) Santa Monica Boulevard at Westmount Drive; (3) Sunset Boulevard and Sunset Plaza Drive; and (4) Melrose Avenue and Westmount Drive.

During the next several weeks, the City will be sharing additional information about the Block by Block Security Ambassadors program with outreach to residents and businesses.

About | Block by Block Security Ambassadors Program – The City of West Hollywood partners with Block by Block on its Security Ambassadors program, which has a direct positive impact on safety and neighborhood livability.

First established as a City program in 2013, West Hollywood Block by Block Security Ambassadors provide a highly visible uniformed presence at the street level and leverage the effectiveness of local law enforcement by working in collaboration with personnel from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station.

In addition to supplemental safety services, Block by Block Security Ambassadors get to know West Hollywood’s neighborhoods and assist in providing an extra level of hospitality to businesses, residents, and visitors and help to address and respond to quality of life concerns in the community.

Security Ambassadors receive trainings on topics such as active shooters, cultural diversity and sensitivity, administration of Narcan to treat narcotic overdose, mental health first aid, sexual harassment, emergency/disaster preparedness, and more.

The Block by Block Security Ambassador Hotline provides access to free, 24/7 support by phone or text at (323) 821-8604; a new toll-free number will be introduced in the coming weeks. For additional information, please visit

About | Sheriff’s, Fire, Code, and Emergencies – The City of West Hollywood contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement and the Los Angeles County Fire Department for fire protection. The City’s Neighborhood & Business Safety Division oversees code enforcement.

For additional information, please visit For anyone with public safety concerns, please reach out to the Sheriff’s Station 24/7 at (310) 855-8850. In an emergency, always call 911.

Downtown Roanoke ambassador program kicks off

The goal is to create a cleaner, safer, more welcoming downtown

ROANOKE, Va. – Downtown Roanoke launched a new initiative Thursday to promote a cleaner and safer downtown – and it’s already in full swing.

Ambassadors could be found downtown today cleaning off graffiti, picking up trash, and helping patrons.

The ambassadors are broken into three teams, each with a different focus: a clean team to remove litter and debris, a hospitality team to answer questions and welcome visitors, and an outreach team that will address quality of life issues and check on those in need.

The hope is to make downtown a more welcoming location.

“Having the very visible, they’re in brightly colored uniforms, very visible presence down here six days a week working hard is going to be a real benefit,” Jaime Clark, VP of Marketing for Downtown Roanoke said. “A clean, safe and welcoming downtown is really the cornerstone of a great community, so we’re excited to see that be a regular focus down here.”

Original story and video from WSLS Roanoke.

Service with a smile: Meet the people keeping downtown safe and beautiful

When Dominque Wilson saw a business owner shoveling snow in front of her storefront, he immediately offered to help. While at first she demurred, Wilson insisted, telling her, “This is our job.” 

Wilson is one of 13 Downtown Ambassadors through the Downtown Tulsa Partnership, a local nonprofit on a mission to champion a prosperous, vibrant and inclusive downtown Tulsa. The Ambassador program specifically focuses on providing hospitable services like giving directions, serving as safety escorts and being an intermediary between unsheltered Tulsans and downtown businesses. In the last year, ambassadors have interacted with more than 5,000 people.

Ambassadors also provide trash and graffiti removal, pressure washing of sidewalks and general beautification projects.

“We do the work that honestly a lot of people don’t want to do,” says Leola Maxey, Ambassador team operations manager. “I’m so proud of the dedication (the ambassadors) show when they come ready and willing to work, no matter the weather.”

Since the Ambassador program first launched July 1, 2021, the team has removed more than 7,400 graffiti tags and stickers and picked up more than 300,000 pounds of trash from sidewalks, streets and alleyways — the equivalent weight of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. They also provided the critical service of removing 1,200 potentially biohazardous materials from downtown rights of way, in addition to various other hospitality services. 

“There’s a lot for us to celebrate in our first year, but the work is ongoing,” says Brian Kurtz, president and CEO of the Downtown Tulsa Partnership. “What we do with our brand means nothing without the visibility and hospitality of this team.”

For more information about the ambassadors or to request assistance, call 918-202-4093 or visit

Originally posted by TulsaPeople.


Vista ambassadors patrol for homeless, litter, graffiti

In the latest local response to how cities respond to homeless populations in their communities, Vista has launched a Clean and Safe program to patrol and respond to disturbances in its historic downtown and business district while also keeping the neighborhood tidy.Former Marine Capt. Walter Rekoski and operations manager for the team set out on a patrol with fellow team member and former security guard Arthur Schwab on a recent Wednesday, hitting the streets to look for litter and graffiti.

It didn’t take long for Schwab to spot a discarded foam cup on the sidewalk along Eucalyptus Avenue. Slipping on blue rubber gloves, he picked it up, tossed it in a nearby trash can and logged it on a phone app.

Up the road, he spotted graffiti on a couple of poles outside Sonic Drive-In, which he wiped away after spraying the poles with the solvent Graf Away.

“It’s like it never existed,” Schwab said, admiring his work.

The two are part of the city’s new Clean and Safe program, launched last month to pick up litter, remove graffiti and occasionally deal with homeless people causing disturbances.

In about a month, Rekoski said the teams have removed 400 pounds of litter from the street and helped remove 400 pieces of graffiti, sometimes doing it themselves and other times alerting city crews of graffiti on sidewalks, or business owners if the tags are on private property.

Two teams of two work overlapping shifts 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, and Rekoski said they are called to respond to an issue with a homeless person on almost every shift.

Over the last decade, we’ve helped Kentucky add nearly 100,000 new jobs and $31 billion in new investments.

The city also has homeless outreach workers, funds shelter beds in neighboring cities and has a strategic plan to address homelessness. The Clean and Safe teams’ role is to quickly respond to and quell disturbances, which often are resolved by asking the homeless person to move along.

“Sometimes just our presence is enough,” Schwab said. “I’ll roll up on my bike and they’ll leave. They think we’re cops, but we’re not.”

In San Diego, the Hillcrest Business Association has contracted with a security team since 2016 to respond to calls of homeless people causing disruptions in local businesses. In Vista, the city has contracted with the national company Block by Block, which in California has teams in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Livermore and Chico. The Vista team is Block by Block’s first presence in San Diego County.

Rekoski said the teams, known as ambassadors rather than security guards, have responded to about 50 calls about disturbances in their first month.

“If there’s a homeless person around, we’ll go talk to them in a calm matter,” he said. “If it gets heated, we’ll call the sheriffs.”

Their area covers Vista Village Drive between Valencia Drive and Civic Center Drive, Santa Fe Avenue from Vista Village Drive to Civic Center Drive, and the area that includes Main Street, East Broadway, the Wave Waterpark and Lowe’s.

Businesses in the area have come to know them and are calling more often, Rekoski said. Calls may be about litter, graffiti or a homeless person causing a disturbance, but he said they are not called solely because a homeless person is seen on the street.

Schwab said if they find someone lying on a sidewalk, however, he will suggest they go to a local city park where they might be more comfortable.

“Yesterday I was doing a patrol, and a guy was lying on the ground on South Santa Fe,” he said. “I asked, ‘Are you OK?’ He asked for money then got up and left.”

Vista City Council members allocated $460,000 to fund the two-year, four-person pilot program in August 2021 with money from $26 million received from the Coronavirus State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

A city staff member at the August meeting described the program as similar to ones in Little Italy and downtown San Diego, where ambassadors help direct people to restaurants or parking while helping keep the area clean.

Councilmember Corinna Contreras noted that, while not explicitly stated, the summary of the program implied that it also is about homelessness.

Her perception was right. During their Wednesday shift, several people at local businesses praised the new two specifically for how they have handled issues with people they described as unruly and homeless.

Vista Clean and Safe ambassadors Walter Rekoski Arthur Schwab patrol Main Street.
Vista Clean and Safe ambassadors Walter Rekoski Arthur Schwab patrol Main Street.
(Don Boomer/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“The other day we had one guy who was causing a ruckus,” said Danoosh Pourbafrana, assistant manager at Sonic Drive-In. “He was throwing things on the patio. Arthur and someone else came over. They ended up having to call the police. It’s obviously not a good thing, but this is supposed to be a family environment. You can’t really have that around here.”

Pourbafrana said the man was talking to himself and appeared to be having a psychotic episode. After the ambassadors arrived, sheriff’s deputies were called and took the man away.

The ambassadors are not trained social workers, but Schwab said they sometimes hand out cards with phone numbers to crisis lines to people they meet on the street.

“Some of them have mental issues, they’ve been out here so long,” he said.

The encounters illustrate a reality much of San Diego and other parts of the country experience, as people with untreated mental health issues are left homeless on the street, some refusing treatment and some never offered the help they need.

Shops and restaurants deal with another reality, as people having psychotic episodes or on drugs sometimes disrupt their businesses.

Todd Johnson, manager of Barrel & Stave Pour House, said he has called the ambassadors a couple of times.

“We just had some homeless that were a little vocal, a little disruptive to our guests,” he said.

Down the street, Natalie Trevino said she also has called the ambassadors to respond to disturbances at her resale shop Twice on Main Street.

“I’ve been here 10 years, and there always has been a need for a program like this,” she said. “There’s just a lot of transient riffraff, and they do kind of gravitate to a downtown environment.”

Trevino said the ambassadors have responded to calls within a few minutes. In the past, she would call the sheriff’s non-emergency number, and a deputy sometimes would arrive 20 minutes or an hour later.

“Obviously they have a lot bigger things going on,” she said, adding that sometimes she would call on men working in neighboring businesses for immediate help.

Christine Alvarado said she also has called the ambassadors for disturbances at her boutique Moonry Collective.

“We definitely feel safer having the ability to contact them at a moment’s notice,” she said. “I have a couple of employees who work the front desk, and just knowing that they have the ability to call them if I’m not here also makes me feel so much better. Because there can be some riffraff in the downtown area, and I want my employees to feel safe.”

Alvarado said she would like the ambassadors to patrol every day of the week, and has seen less graffiti and trash in the neighborhood over the past month.

602,000 lbs. of waste removed from Broadway trashcans

By: Nickelle Smith, WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — When the honky tonks close down on Broadway, another round of work ramps up.

“These guys come down here with a purpose, a sense of urgency,” said Nashville Downtown Partnership Operations Supervisor Joshua Hillen. “When we come in, we’re cleaning up the party from the night before.”

The Downtown Nashville Partnership’s Clean and Safe team starts with pressure washing alleyways and block faces at around 3 a.m. So far this year, the team has used 115,000 gallons of water to pressure wash 720 alleyways and 994 block faces.

“We blitz Broadway, make sure all the curb lines, all the cigarette butts. We want everybody to come down here, have fun, and then we’re going to come in [and] we’re going to clean everything up,” Hillen said.

(Courtesy: NDP)

Then the rest of the team starts working at 6:30 a.m.

“If for one day we weren’t here, it would be a complete mess,” Hillen said, explaining their job serves everyone on Broadway. “Not just work, not just visitors, but people who live here as well.”

He continued, “We’re getting up big trash. We’re also continuing efforts on the pressure washing, looking for graffiti. Graffiti removal is a big thing. We always want to make sure that we’re coming down here, putting eyes on it, remove it, get it out, so that by the time all the business owners get here it’s already gone.”

To date, the team has removed 1,680 graffiti tags from downtown businesses and public spaces. They’ve also removed over 602,000 pounds of garbage from downtown trashcans.


The safety aspect of their duties is vital, with ambassadors logging 7,000 miles on Segways looking for challenging situations to help visitors.

“If you need directions anywhere, we’re going to help out with that,” said Hillen. “We want to make sure, not only everybody else is safe down here, but also I want to keep my guys safe. So, we got to keep our head on a swivel.”

The Nashville Downtown Partnership deploys most of their services in the footprint of the central business improvement district. Their clean and safe services are funded through annual assessments on privately owned properties within the footprint.

“These guys are on foot. We’ve got heavy machinery down here,” said Hillen. “They’re out here bustin’ their humps every single day – seven days a week.”

After working for the Nashville Downtown Partnership for several years, Hillen explained that he appreciates their role in more ways than one.

“It’s given me the opportunity to get my life back. I got a beautiful wife, just bought a house, and if it wasn’t for the partnership, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” he said. 

‘The Swiss Army knife’: Boulder downtown ambassadors one of city initiatives showing success

By  | Boulder Daily Camera

While walking through Boulder’s Central Park late Friday morning, Mario Chavez spoke with a person who requested that he check on a woman across the park.

She was spread out on a blanket, eyes closed, breathing slowly — but otherwise unresponsive.

Chavez walked over and spoke to her, but she didn’t open her eyes or answer him. He tried to wake her up. When she didn’t budge after several attempts, Chavez called for medical assistance. It was a hot day, he said, and the person was lying directly in the sun with a cold beer that indicated she’d been drinking.

In these instances, it’s better to play it safe than to end up sorry, Chavez noted.

“It’s not our job to judge,” he said. “It’s just our job to help.”

Welfare checks are one of many duties of a downtown Boulder ambassador, a relatively new program of which Chavez is part that was created through a collaboration between the city and the Downtown Boulder Partnership.

When the new downtown ambassadors handle a situation like the one Friday morning, they create an incident report. This data goes to the city and is used, at least in part, to demonstrate how often the ambassadors were able to address a situation without making a call to the police.

The ambassadors program is one of several initiatives on which the Boulder City Council in April 2021 agreed to spend about $3 million over an 18-month period. Others include an urban park ranger program, a five-person internal team to clear encampments and a dedicated team within the Boulder Police Department for camping ban enforcement.

However, given newly established metrics and a list of goals the city acknowledges are aspirational, the first year or so of the pilot program has shown varied success.

According to data presented to the City Council on Thursday, in the time since the Council approved the various measures intended to help with enforcement of its urban camping ban, the city reports clearing 486 camping sites — 53 of which had propane tanks or fire rings — and removing 112 tons of debris and 5,100 needles.

But according to Boulder’s Director of Utilities Joe Taddeucci, the work is about more than the numbers. The efforts are not intended to end homelessness but instead to place a focus on safety, he added.

BOULDER, CO-August 5:Jennifer Abshire, owner of ...
Jennifer Abshire, owner of Active 88 shoes, is checked on by Mario Chavez and Bob Borchardt during the Boulder Downtown Ambassadors usual rounds around town on Friday. (Cliff Grassmick — Staff Photographer)

“It’s really about making the spaces safe for everyone, including the people who are attempting to camp in them,” he said.

Removing fire rings, propane tanks and needles accomplishes that, and it aligns with what the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has determined to be best, Taddeucci said Thursday.

The long-term goals that have been identified for the pilot program include:

  • No unsanctioned camping in public spaces;
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness are connected to Coordinated Entry services;
  • Access to public space and public infrastructure is not impeded;
  • Reduction in crime and disorder in designated areas of emphasis;
  • Visitors have access to knowledgeable resources or city services;
  • Maintenance crews are able to safely access critical infrastructure in public spaces;
  • Waterways are free of contamination; and
  • Users of public space report feeling safe and welcome.

Regarding the data, Taddeucci noted that it’s a work in progress and that establishing metrics has been a significant undertaking. It’s not possible to draw absolute conclusions yet, he said. “At this point, we don’t know if it’s a seasonal thing … or whether we’ll see after a period of time that it’s a trend that’s continuing and concerning,” Taddeucci said.

In early 2022, for example, there was a brief decline in the number of encampment reports, but the numbers have risen significantly in April and May. In April, the number of reports neared 350 with that number jumping to closer to 400 in May.

Additionally, more unique individuals are reporting encampments to the city, which staff acknowledge could have more correlation with the increased communication to the public about where to report encampments than the actual number of encampments.

Ultimately, the initial findings left some City Council members wondering about the effectiveness of the various initiatives.

“My concern is really that despite picking up so much trash and doing so many cleanups, we’re kind of just trying to plug holes in a dam that seems to have more cracks every day,” Councilmember Nicole Speer said in Thursday’s meeting. “Rather than just clean up, I would really love for us to think about a strategy of harm reduction.”

“It really does not look to me like the data is favorable at this point,” Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend added.

BOULDER, CO-August 5:Boulder Downtown Ambassador, Brandon ...
Boulder Downtown Ambassador Brandon Lowe returns the Tebo Train on Friday. Ambassadors do a little bit of everything. (Cliff Grassmick — Staff Photographer)

Councilmember Matt Benjamin also questioned at what point the Council would have a chance to consider whether the pilot program has been effective and to determine what initiatives should continue.

To that point, City Manager Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde acknowledged that many of the initiatives were delayed for various reasons. The urban park rangers just began work, and the Police Department has hired only half of the officers the City Council approved last year.

Because of this, the city is likely to continue the program past the initial 18-month mark, which is approaching in October.

The ambassadors are one area the city has reported is successful, and Boulder is considering continuing the program indefinitely with continued support from the Downtown Boulder Partnership-managed Business District.

BOULDER, CO-August 5: Team Lead, Mario ...
Team Lead, Mario Chavez, of the Boulder Downtown Ambassadors, makes a call Friday to get an ambulance to Central Park for an unconscious woman. (Cliff Grassmick — Staff Photographer)

It got off the ground quickly and remains relatively well-staffed. There are currently 16 ambassadors, according to Operations Manager Brandon Lowe, though he said they could use more.

Since the pilot began, the team has performed more than 50,000 conversations with visitors, 10,000 local business check-ins and almost 3,000 welfare checks. They have picked up almost 8,000 bags of trash and cleaned up 4,500 instances of graffiti as well as biohazard waste from more than 100 humans and animals, the report notes.

Minutes before calling for medical assistance in Central Park, Chavez picked up trash from a downtown sidewalk.

Before that, he and coworker Bob Borchardt stopped into Active 88 Shoes as part of the regular business checks the ambassadors conduct.

The work of the downtown ambassadors is varied. Some days they’re helping set up for downtown events or providing maps and answering questions for visitors. Other days, they’re building relationships with Boulder’s unhoused residents and local downtown business owners.

“You are the Swiss Army knife of the downtown area,” Chavez said of the job. “You do everything.”

For Chavez and Borchardt, the work is personal, and it could be the reason they enjoy it and feel well-equipped to do it.

Borchardt is in recovery and was living on the streets of Denver some four years ago, and that certainly impacts his perspective.

“I know there is a way out,” he said.

When determining which camps to clear, the city teams go through a prioritization process. It’s not random, Taddeucci confirmed.

The cleanup schedule is determined by staff capacity and factors such as the life/safety risk; the proximity to schools, parks with playgrounds or public residences; the impact on neighborhoods; the size of the camp and whether there have been reports of crime or threats of violence tied to it.

To continue this work, Taddeucci said the city will bring forward a proposal during the budgeting process to expand the cleanup team by an additional four members.

In terms of policing, the Boulder Police Department — which has hired three of the six officers the Council supported last year — reports having issued 414 camping tickets between September 2021 and Aug. 1.

Further, according to its research, the department determined that there are concentrations of crime around the encampments.

Mayor Pro Tem Friend asked whether the city has any controls for its crime data, given that “if you’re policing something more, you’re going to find more crime,” Friend said.

Daniel Reinhard, with the Boulder Police Department, said he used encampments reported by residents as the baseline. These encampments are not immediately conveyed to the police department but to the public reclamation team. Because officers are at least initially unaware of the situation, it removes some of the potential bias, he added.

In the coming months, Boulder City Council will get its annual homelessness update and make some big decisions about its budget.

From Chavez’s perspective, ideas like the downtown ambassadors are a good start.

“I actually feel like I’m part of the solution,” he said. “What are we going to do? The answer is us.”


(L-R) Leanna, Narell, Clarissa, and Izzy (One not pictured), K-Town Connect Downtown Ambassadors, Knoxville, June 2022

Orignal article published by Inside of Knoxville

Since the program was announced last April, the ambassadors employed in the K-Town Connect program have been daily working their way around downtown. You might spot them in their bright neon-green shirts. The program launched almost three months ago as a joint effort by Visit Knoxville, the City of Knoxville, Knox County, and the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, is a product of the Block by Block company, which provides services to 100 locations according to their website.

I’ve introduced myself to several of the ambassadors and I’d encourage you to do the same if you spot them. I’ve seen them engaging homeless people, picking up trash, and greeting visitors. I wanted to know a bit more about what they are doing and how the effort is going, so I had separate conversations with Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville, and Narell Haigler, the downtown coordinator for the group to get their perspectives.

Ms. Bumpas said the program is going well. She said she didn’t really know what to expect when the program launched and Visit Knoxville was asked to take on management. She said she has been pleasantly surprised. “Those that have been hired are very caring, extremely smart, trained in social services . . . the compassion that they show and the way they’ve been able to engage with the homeless population has been quite impressive.”

There are six ambassadors, including Mr. Haigler, who are out on the street daily, with at least some part of that group out seven days a week. Knoxville groups have purchased a number of hours for the year and there is flexibility within that number of hours, depending on special events, for example.

She said they have been able to learn more about downtown to share that information with visitors. She said a number of times when tourists enter the Visitor Center they have reported that they were directed there by the ambassadors. They also have connected to city services to report graffiti. She said they have been removing stickers that a group recently put up around downtown, saving time for city workers. And they have been forming beneficial relationships with the homeless downtown.

Area Covered by K-Town Connect

One incident stood out in her mind involving a tourist who crashed their bike and needed to be transported to the emergency room. The K-Town Connect person was the first on the scene and helped make that happen. In another situation a K-Town Connect person was able to sit with a homeless person who was irrational and bring them back enough to learn what services they needed and to connect them to those.

A main emphasis in the early stages of the program is to collect data. That data will be published by Visit Knoxville quarterly and will not only show what the ambassadors have done, but it will help identify the biggest problems or needs and where they might have the most impact.

The ambassadors work from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm each day and divide into zones that cover downtown and adjacent areas. She said it may expand beyond those parameters either with more hours, more workers, or more territory in the second year. They will know more about needs after the first contract year. She said the system was “never intended to operate twenty-four hours a day.” She made it clear as well that they are not law enforcement, but rather try to impact the downtown area in a range of other ways.

She also said they’ve had an impact on the interactions that Visit Knoxville has with the homeless population. She said they routinely enter the Visitor Center and now she said they are less often agitated and difficult. She said the tone has changed because someone in the building likely knows their name and knows a little about them. She said, “Maybe some of the people who we have incidents with act that way because they don’t feel seen and K-Town Connect is making them feel seen and maybe there is hope . . .”

For more detail about day-to-day operations, I spoke with Narell Haigler. Given that it was during the shift, he asked if I would walk along on his route so that he could give it the coverage it needed. We walked from the Visitor Center to the Bijou via Market Street and back through Krutch Park while we talked.

Narell is from Clinton and has always lived in East Tennessee. He was a program manager at Open Arms and he current serves in the Army Reserves. He was interested in serving other people in a new setting. He enjoys both the outreach and the welcoming portions of the job. “I love Knoxville and it has been a great journey.”

He said the public, from visitors, to the homeless population, and business owners have quickly embraced their role. He said they may give directions to the Dolly Parton mural, help a homeless person get services, and then be asked by a business owner to check a nearby alley. “It has been a challenge, but I feel we’ve been helpful.”

They begin the day with a shift briefing at 7:00 am to tell them what is happening in the district, from the Farmers’ Market to the U.S. Cycling Championships. They talk about who is likely to be downtown and they discuss outreach. He said they often know that a particular homeless person has an appointment that day and they are instructed in the briefing to remind that person when they see them.


He said they make a real effort to get to know the homeless people common to their assigned area. He said they try learn why they are homeless, which services they are connected to or might need, and then try to get them to that service. He said it takes time, but they are there everyday and can do that work. He noted at least one situation where they were able to connect a person to drug treatment.

He said they leave the briefing and walk their routes covering the different zones. They asked to keep moving and not to congregate so they can cover more ground. They pick up trash from the night before and rouse people they find sleeping in doorways, encouraging them to move along so businesses can open. He said they generally do so when asked, particularly since they have a relationship with the ambassadors. If they are not responsive, they request help.

They do the same thing throughout the day when they find people on the sidewalk. He said the ambassadors are kind and usually get a good response when they ask them to move along and offer any help they might need. He said they engage panhandlers and encourage them not to violate the various city ordinances regarding where and how they can ask for money. If it continues to be an issue they call law enforcement. Beyond that, he said it is up to the community to determine what is allowed.

Narell Haigler, Director of the K-Town Connect Downtown Ambassadors, Knoxville, June 2022

There are five areas covered, which they have termed Mission, Sub-Mission, Downtown, East of Hall of Fame, and World’s Fair Park. He said they do welfare checks, helping visitors, explaining how to access the Sunshpere, and so on. One person takes each zone and he says there is always trash and scooters to move off sidewalks. They do maintenance requests to the city. Mid-day they move toward the center as activity increases and hospitality and interacting with businesses becomes more of a focus. The direct people to restaurants and events.

He said hospitality services consume a majority of their time, though they will soon be more able to quantify that as they assemble statistics. They also do small things like open doors for visitors, watch for items that someone drops and getting it back to them, escorting groups from the convention center to Market Square, and more.

He encouraged downtown residents and others to introduce themselves and communicate any concerns. “If we don’t know, we can’t address it. The community has been supportive and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the summer goes and how we might help.” They may be contacted through Visit Knoxville.

Keeping the District Beautiful

Jennifer Truesdale, CoMo Magazine

If you’ve ever walked around downtown COMO’s 50 blocks and admired how clean they are, there’s someone to thank for that — several people, in fact. Bill York and his crew of Block by Block (BBB) ambassadors put in the hard work of keeping The District as clean as possible, all year round, no matter the weather.

“I like what I do. When I’m cleaning, I know I’m making a difference in my downtown,” Bill, Block by Block operations manager, said.

Block by Block is a Louisville, Kentucky-based organization whose cleaning and safety services can be found in the downtown areas of more than 100 municipalities, including COMO, which so far is the only Missouri city to implement BBB services.

BBB offers a one-stop-shop for cities looking for a way to keep their downtown areas clean, attractive, and safe. They recruit for and fill the positions for street cleaners, called ambassadors, as well as provide training, uniforms, equipment, HR software, and more to make it as simple as possible for downtowns like COMO’s to “plug and play” BBB services into their community.

BBB came to The District in 2016 and is paid for by the Downtown CID.

“The District sought out BBB due to the amount of trash and debris that was on the sidewalks of downtown,” says Nickie Davis, executive director for The District. “Two of our top priorities are to keep our District clean and safe. BBB helps with both those things.”

Bill and his three ambassadors go out and do the largely thankless job few others wish to do. It’s not unusual for each ambassador to walk 8-12 miles a day as they clean up downtown.

“We remove litter and debris from sidewalks and curb lines, and remove graffiti from benches, bike racks and trash cans,” Bill says.

And the graffiti is a challenge: For BBB purposes, graffiti is not limited to your typical spray paint art; it’s basically anything that doesn’t belong where it is, and Bill says that in downtown COMO, stickers are a big culprit. Flyers for events and lost pets also count as graffiti, and Bill points out that there are designated bulletin boards downtown for these items. In the last 13 months, Bill and his crew have removed 18,000 pounds of litter and 942 pieces of graffiti from downtown. In April of this year alone, The District’s BBB team cleaned up 1,300 pounds of trash and 171 graffiti incidents.

“There’s more trash when MU is in session and when the weather is nice.”

The District’s BBB services installed cigarette butt recycling receptacles strapped to light poles in February 2016. Since then, BBB has recycled more than 917,000 cigarette butts through its partnership with TerraCycle, a global business that specializes in recycling hard-to-recycle items. Bill says in October of 2021, COMO’s BBB was a top-25 cigarette butt recycler for TerraCycle.

Despite these impressive numbers, cigarette butts are still among the top trash items the ambassadors pick up. Bill says he wishes people would use the recycling ash trays more, along with the regular trash cans.

Looking ahead, the BBB program may grow to include more street cleaning ambassadors as need dictates.

“We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing,” Bill says. “There will probably always be a need; people still litter.”

If you see an ambassador cleaning downtown, be sure to say hello and thanks for their hard work.

The District, Downtown CID hired the first Block by Block ambassadors in October of 2015 and the impact they have made is incredible…

926 Directions Given

33 Escorts Provided

7,330 Instances of Graffiti Removed

119 Parking Meter Assistance Given

6,377 TerraCycle Ashtrays Emptied

181,080 Pounds of Trash Collected

1,528 Trash Cans Emptied

71,068 Weeds Removed

917,420 Cigarette Butts (Approx.)