Posted on Friday May 19, 2023 by Insider Look

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New Partnership with LOUMED

Mid-March, Block by Block (BBB) began a partnership with Louisville Medical and Education District (LOUMED for short), a new development district in Louisville, KY. Four anchor tenants in Downtown Louisville make up this district: University of Louisville, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Norton Healthcare and University of Louisville Health.

Mayor Craig Greenberg stands beside a Louisville Medical LOUMED Block by Block Ambassador.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg with a LOUMED Ambassador

According to LOUMED Executive Director Nadareca Thibeaux, these partners want to “cultivate a cohesive medical campus by improving walkability, adding more greenspace, improving traffic flow and creating a safe and welcoming environment for all who visit, work and are educated here in [the] district.”

LOUMED is made up of 22 blocks, 250 acres and 9.6 million sq ft of occupied space. In this area of Louisville alone, more than 16,000 individuals are employed. With safety a primary concern in the district, LOUMED has hired 15 Ambassadors to cover the 22-block area. In addition to safety, these Ambassadors provide cleaning, wayfinding and hospitality services in the district.

Each of the new Ambassadors will also fulfill the following responsibilities in the district:

  • Create a visible presence that makes visitors feel welcome and safe, and ensures situations can be handled appropriately.
  • Discourage active aggressors as they report prohibited behaviors and crimes.
  • Focus on Safety Risk Aversion and Quality of Life Issues. They will treat all individuals in the district with respect while keeping the area safe for all. Ambassadors will also be able to connect individuals in-need with helpful community resources.
  • Direct, offer greetings and share historical information to visitors in the district.
  • Respond to various needs like conveying parking information, repairing a tire, carrying boxes, escorting staff or even holding doors for visitors.
  • Build community connections with business owners and stakeholders in the district.

During a press briefing in the LOUMED District on Thursday, May 18th, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg discussed the importance of these four tenants coming together to improve the area. In a post shared after the event, Greenberg said the new partnership with BBB “will enhance the experience of our public spaces for visitors, employees, students and patients!”

A Green LouMed branded Block by Block Ambassador truck.

LOUMED’s new branded vehicle

In just three months, the BBB LOUMED Ambassador Team has already begun to make an impact in the district. After the press briefing was over, a Starbucks employee next door expressed excitement after learning that the Ambassadors were going to be a permanent staple in the district, claiming they have already made her feel safer as she arrives for and leaves work.

Since their first full month of service in April until now, LOUMED Ambassadors have made 236 hospitality assists, conducted 15 safety escorts and made over 16,000 greetings. So far this May, the Ambassador Team has filled 44 trash bags of litter collected off the street. Anyone in need of a safety escort in the LOUMED district can contact 502-791-1435.

LOUMED BBB Ambassadors have not only offered hospitality services, cleaning and safety escorts, but they have also assisted in removing a known criminal from the district streets. Monday evening this week, LOUMED Ambassadors were alerted that a person with outstanding warrants had been acting erratic and violent towards multiple female employees of district businesses. The man’s image was distributed to Ambassadors during shift briefings each day. On Wednesday morning, an Ambassador Team Lead successfully located the assailant and reported his whereabouts to police, ultimately leading to the man’s pickup and arrest.

BBB is proud of these Ambassadors who assisted the local police with finding this individual. This incident is further proof that BBB Ambassadors across the country are actively making communities safer for the people who live in, work in and visit them. As LOUMED continues to beautify and improve the district with new infrastructure, parks and more, BBB Ambassadors will be there every step of the way to make the community cleaner, friendlier and safer!

A group of individuals wearing matching uniforms outside of a governmental building.

LOUMED Ambassador Team

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 Friday May 12, 2023 by Insider Look

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While San Francisco Sleeps, These Teams Go to Work

Each night, just as San Franciscans are finishing dinner, tucking-in children, and getting ready for their nightly routines, Block by Block (BBB) third-shift Ambassadors are showing up for work, ready to make the streets of Union Square and the surrounding blocks spic and span.

Freddie “Raven” Anderson, Operations Supervisor, and Tinea Adams, General Manager, oversee BBB Ambassador operations at San Francisco, California’s Union Square. While many of their responsibilities match those of other BBB teams throughout the country, part of their job is uniquely special to Union Square’s needs.

Like every account that BBB operates, a one-of-a-kind workplan has been created to tackle the needs specific to Union Square. A part of this plan is routine, nightly power washing. While the Union Square Alliance is approximately 26 blocks (or 1.6 miles), the actual walking distance of both sides of the streets, all block faces and alcoves in the Alliance is approximately 7.5 miles. It takes the BBB third-shift Ambassador Team about a week to power wash the entire Alliance—a distance equivalent to walking the Golden Gate Bridge about 4.5 times from one end to the other.

Map of Union Square Alliance showing 26 blocks covered.

Map of Union Square Alliance with blocks covered.

Around 8 p.m. each night, three to four individuals with pressure washers are deployed throughout Union Square. To prevent late-night noise disturbances for sleeping residents, attention is first directed toward residential areas. A driver is also sent out in an All-Terrain Litter Vacuum (ATLV) to pick up larger debris from streets and curbs. After the residential areas have been power washed, next come the dirtiest areas, with customer requests given precedence.

Working in tandem into the early hours of the morning, the team makes their way through the district covering a different route of the Alliance each evening. The result of all this effort? Residents, business owners, and tourists wake up to clean streets clear of debris as they go about their morning routines.

Raven says working at night comes with unique challenges, with the safety of BBB crews a number one priority. In addition to ensuring the night crews are wearing proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), Raven also touches base with all crew members throughout the night to know where everyone is and make sure everyone is accounted for. Typically, two Ambassadors will clean opposite sides of the same street, carrying walky-talkies and their company SMART devices in case they run into any issues or need to notify the Team Lead of a concern. Working in pairs adds a layer of safety for Ambassadors during this late-night work.

Other than safety concerns and preventing noise around residential areas, Raven and Tinea said the overnight Ambassador Teams encounter other issues day crews do not. On Friday and Saturday nights, Union Square comes alive with bar-goers and night life. They said it can be challenging to pressure wash while the sidewalks are busy with people. Cleaning the streets and curb-lines can also be difficult when cars are parked there, making it hard for the ATLV to get close enough to pick up debris. Despite these challenges, the Ambassadors accomplish their nightly power washing every evening, without fail.

Not only do the Ambassadors accomplish their tasks, but they excel at them, thanks to a 14-point Quality Control Audit System created by BBB. This system is a checklist for the quality of the cleaning completed in each section and by each Ambassador. It includes locations like curb-lines, sidewalks, tree boxes, alcoves/doorways, and other visible elements that need special attention in the Alliance. Cleaning Ambassadors are given a grade out of four, based on how clean each location is from a zero, unacceptable, to a four, outstanding. Individuals not performing to BBB standards are issued feedback and clarified expectations. If individuals repeatedly fail to meet expectations, they will be relieved of their position. This guarantees that the Alliance is getting the quality results they pay for.

Third-shift Ambassadors work an eight-hour shift with a 40-minute lunch break. Around 4:00 a.m., all Ambassadors return to the main operating station to clean the inside and outside of the vehicles used and debrief on the evening. This happens every single night, seven days a week.

Raven has been with BBB since 2016, having worked just about every position there is: cleaning, special projects, pressure washing, Team Lead and now Operations. Currently, because of his experience, Raven is covering as Team Lead during the night shifts at Union Square as they look to hire new supervisors.

Tinea came to work at BBB after working retail and being a stay-at-home mom. She wanted to work somewhere she could manage great people, something she is deeply passionate about. At BBB, Tinea has found somewhere she loves going to every day, where she can make a difference in the community and meet tourists from all over the world (while getting to work outside!).

Tinea believes the BBB Ambassador Team and SF Travel, another division of BBB in San Francisco focusing on tourism, are a family that works together to make Union Square clean and safe, keeping visitors coming back.

“When you walk through, how clean are our streets? They are very clean because we are doing a great job. It feels good to know we are making a difference. You can see the difference in the borders where we don’t work,” she said.

Raven shared similar sentiment. He feels it is amazing to be able to work in a world-renowned city with team camaraderie and where everyone knows you.

San Francisco’s Union Square is a bustling, historic part of the city with backdrops of quaint cable cars, large events, shopping and immense history, and BBB Ambassadors are there to keep it safe and clean for visitors and locals every step of the way—both night and day.

A group of people in uniforms at night posing in front of Union Square branded vehicles.

An overnight crew ready to get cleaning!

Posted on Thursday May 4, 2023 by Insider Look

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A Man in Need

This story was submitted to the Block by Block (BBB) corporate team from Operations Manager Kyle Robinson of Akron, Ohio. It represents a common encounter BBB Ambassadors can experience in the field and an effective, impactful way to respond to help the community—or even just a single person.

Cropped image of woman smiling

Ambassador Val Kramer

A Letter from Operations Manager Kyle Robinson

I just wanted to share some information I received from one of my Clean Ambassadors, Val Kramer, recently. This truly made me so proud of her and our Ambassador team! Val was not present at one of our team meetings, and I could not reach her by phone that day. The next day, she came to me to explain her absence and shared an inspiring full-circle story.

On Tuesday, March 21st, 2023, Val was returning to the Greystone building (our HQ) for a bi-weekly team meeting. As she was walking down Main St., she noticed a man sitting alone on the swings with a box of random things. She said that she greeted him with a “hello, how are you.” After he said hello, she said she felt the need to stop. So, she stopped. At first, she said he was a little distant, but she kept speaking with him and they began to break the ice. They went back and forth with small talk, and, eventually, the man—we’ll call him John—began to tell her his story.

As they spoke, John told her that he had lost his purpose in the world and that he didn’t want to live anymore. He told her that he had lost all hope and he was just done. Val quickly reassured him that he has so much to live for and asked why he felt this way. As John continued to open up, Val continued to actively listen and engage.

He gave Val a brief life history/story and once he started to talk to her, she said it was a very natural conversation. He began telling her about his past work as a welder and that he loved building tricycles and hoped to build one that could assist the elderly and disabled. John told her about a terrible motorcycle accident he was in; about how his identity was recently stolen and his accounts drained; and that he once died in a surgery and was brought back to life. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.

He opened up to Val about his faith, discussing spirituality and his feelings on how he lost his purpose, more so, his desire to live. Val recommended some books she read that he may find helpful and told him about a faith-based book she actually found downtown while working as an Ambassador. She also gave him information on Victims Assistance, CSS, and some other services offered in our area.

As she continued to talk to him, he mentioned that they had met before. Eventually, he told her that they spoke way back in 2014 and she stopped and showed him the same kindness then and he always remembered that. As the conversation ended, Val ensured he had information to local services and had a place to stay. John took the information, said he had an apartment in the area, and said he was feeling a little better. She said he never asked for anything; he just needed someone to talk to.

I just want to thank Val for such an incredible engagement and for taking the time to ensure John was heard and not only offered resources, but also offered kindness and compassion. The fact that he remembered Val for that same kindness, almost 10 years later, is a beautiful thing. I can only imagine how many people remember Val for her acts of kindness over the last 21 years that she has worked for Block by Block. This really does shine a light on how impactful the Ambassadors are in our communities every day.


Kyle Robison, Operations Manager

Downtown Akron, Ohio Partnership

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. 
Posted on Wednesday March 8, 2023 by Insider Look

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Introducing the Skyway Program

Hospitality and Safety Welcomed Into the Skyways

Four Safety Ambassadors in Downtown Minneapolis posing for a photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on Wednesday March 1, 2023 by Ambassador Spotlight

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No Longer the Underdog

Ambassador Spotlight: Uledus Roseman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Bill Green, The Frederick News-Post

Posted on Friday January 13, 2023 by Insider Look

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The Livability Network

Downtown Minneapolis Caring For All Its Residents

Minneapolis Livability Team Member Helping Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Posted on Monday November 14, 2022 by Ambassador Spotlight

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The Spirit Behind the Service

Ambassador Spotlight: Dave Hallenberger

“I want to be outside. I want to be where the people are,” Dave Hallenberger replied when asked why he valued his Ambassador position at Block by Block (BBB).

Before working as a Special Projects Ambassador in Downtown Minneapolis, Dave spent 28 years in a security role where he was confined indoors, behind a desk. He shared that he did not know what happiness felt like in a work environment until he started his career at Block by Block. From Dave’s first day on the job to 13 years later, he is still passionate about the positive impact created by his work downtown. Raised in a small town near Lake City, Minnesota, the army veteran of 10 years initially felt intimidated by Minneapolis since he was unfamiliar with the landscape. Now he knows the streets of downtown like the back of his hand. 

Dave’s journey as an Ambassador began when his sister-in-law advised him to apply for an opening position at the company. At the time, Block by Block was a recently introduced hospitality service to the downtown area contracted by the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District. 

Immediately after reviewing the job description, Dave was thrilled to apply. “They were going to pay me to be a good Samaritan!” he thought. Quickly, he learned that his new employer was different from any other that he had witnessed in the workforce. 

“Where do you get a job where the vice president of the company goes out there with you?” Hallenberger commented about his first day on the field. He appreciated the precedent the company’s leadership set because it connected the values and culture through the different roles and ranks. 

Throughout his years working at Block by Block, he became a trusted employee who always went above and beyond. “He makes my job easier,” Angel Johnson, Operations Manager at BBB, shared. 

Many other managers who worked with Dave agreed. He always takes the initiative to complete tasks before they are noticed and goes above what is expected of him. Over the 13 years, he was recognized twice as the employee of the year and was recently awarded employee of the quarter. Hallenberger thrived in his role because of the trust he built with the management team. He appreciated the freedom and the responsibility of his job. 

Throughout his time, he implemented a routine, starting his week by patrolling the blocks and noticing anything that seemed off. From there, he prioritized his projects and what he needed to accomplish in the following days. Even his colleagues were quick to see the self-starter within Dave’s personality. 

His coworker and partner on the field, Ron Carlson, said, “You can see how much Dave cares about what he does. He is passionate about his work and wants to do the best job possible.”  

Because of the painstaking efforts Dave and many other Ambassadors demonstrate, Minneapolis is kept clean, friendly, and safe. Their hard work keeps the graffiti off the buildings, trash off the streets, and hospitality at the forefront. The Ambassador position at Block by Block was more than just a job for Dave. In addition to positively impacting the community, it was an opportunity for Dave to find joy in his work. Within a year of working as an Ambassador, he encouraged his son, Kevin, to apply. Closely behind Dave in seniority, Kevin has worked as an Ambassador for 12 years in various roles. Currently, he is the team lead for the night shift.

Stories like Dave Hallenberger’s reveal the environment Block by Block creates in downtown areas. By incorporating their hospitality services, downtown communities can provide meaningful jobs that are rewarding and beneficial to the economy. In turn, Ambassadors serve by keeping the city polished and welcoming for the individuals visiting or coming to work. 

This ecosystem generates opportunities for people to find work where they feel heard and gives them a chance to serve other citizens. “I feel very passionate about my job,” Dave added. 

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.)

Boulder’s ambassadors are keeping businesses happy — and modeling a compassionate, effective approach to homelessness

(Originally posted by Boulder Beat.)

It is a little before 11 a.m. on a Tuesday. BJ Zuromski crouches on the Pearl Street Mall, talking to one of his friends. The man, seated in a wheelchair, is having a bad day, struggling with sobriety and the challenges of living on the streets of Boulder. He tells Zuromski that he wants to die.

Nine hundred and thirty-seven days sober himself, Zuromski shares a bit of his story with the man he sees nearly every day. He urges the man to hang in there, and promises to check in later, after he finishes up work elsewhere on the mall.

Zuromski is one of Downtown Boulder’s blue-shirted ambassadors. The program — a partnership with national organization Block by Block, which works with 100-plus cities, business and arts districts across the U.S. — began last year as part of Boulder’s  $2.8 million plan to manage and remove unhoused people in the city; primarily in downtown, where there is often conflict with business owners, shoppers, residents and workers.

In a package of not-yet-successful initiatives, the ambassadors stand as a shining example of national best practices in the value of personal, non-police interactions with people experiencing homelessness. Business owners have sung their praises, and Downtown Boulder Partnership and the Department of Community Vitality will be asking for money in next year’s budget to continue the pilot.

“When the ambassadors start, I tell them the mission is to be the best part of someone’s day,” said Chip, CEO of Downtown Boulder Partnership. “Downtown works well when it has that social infrastructure, and it’s not just people coming and going, but it is a community.”


‘They really do care’

A polo-shirt-clad crew of 17 walk Boulder’s downtown and University Hill business districts through the summer; the team is smaller in the winter. They are responsible for all that is needed to keep the areas safe, clean and welcoming: picking up trash, removing graffiti, responding to business concerns and answering questions for the tourists. Chip calls them the “Swiss Army knife of downtown management.”

The feedback from businesses, visitors and members of the public has been good so far, Chip said. A formal survey is planned next month. Employees and owners visited by Boulder Beat gave glowing reviews of ambassadors they often know by name, who walk them to their cars at night, check in daily and respond quickly when called.

Their hospitality extends beyond their jobs; one ambassador, Denver, organized the others to bring flowers to one business owner on her birthday. Zuromski frequently purchases coffee or food for his friends experiencing homelessness who spend time on the mall; once, bought a walker to replace a broken one for a man with mobility challenges.

“They really do care,” said, Ellen Epstein, from family-owned Pearl Convenience (1640). “Someone stops in here every day. When someone new starts, they will come introduce them to us. They’ve become our friends.”

Most often, workers and business owners referenced the ambassadors work with people experiencing homelessness. Before the ambassadors, the only option for outside intervention was the police. Historic harm and distrust — on top of trauma — means situations often escalate into an arrest or mental health hold. A friendly request from a familiar ambassador can create better responses.

“People will comply, move along, ask for a bag so they can clean up after themselves,” Zuromski said. When someone is yelling or causing a disturbance, “we take people for a walk, ask them what’s going on,” said Brandon Lowe, operations manager. “Nine times out of 10, it’s someone having a bad day” and the gentle intervention helps.

It all comes down to relationship building, Chip said, which is “not something we invented. This is best practice.”

“Relationships build trust. A couple of guys this morning were by the Wells Fargo parking lot, take out a bowl and start smoking pot. I know who they are. I said, ‘Hey do you guys mind going back there?’ They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, kids are here. No problem, Chip.’ It wasn’t punitive for them. I’m not a cop going, ‘I’m gonna write you a ticket.’ It was like, ‘Hey, look around, you’re part of this, and your part would be cooler if you’re down there.’

“They’re still going to smoke pot down here, but they’re going to be a little more conscious about the part they’re playing.”

Adding outreach

Ambassadors still do call the cops on occasion; each ambassador has a story about a situation that was beyond their skillset. But they also share an understanding of why it is a tool to be used sparingly and a genuine concern for the wellbeing of people they think of as friends.

“The last thing we want them to think is we’re security or authority,” Zuromski said.

At a recent outreach event at the Boulder bandshell, unhoused residents reported both positive and negative interactions. They said the ambassadors were similar to the cops in one way: Some are nice and others hassle them. Ambassador team members gave similar feedback, noting that not every one of their peers shows Zuromski’s skill and sensitivity.

Still, the program has proved popular enough that Downtown Boulder Partnership is asking for enough money in the upcoming budget cycle to extend it past the 18-month pilot period (which ends roughly with the calendar year). So far, the city has spent $586,000 on the ambassadors, with Downtown Boulder kicking in an additional $343,902.

The ask for 2023 is $500,000, which will add University Hill-specific ambassadors and two outreach workers to help unhoused residents downtown and on the Hill. Trained professionals can go beyond what ambassadors are capable of, Chip said.

“Do you know what’s BJ’s training is for dealing with suicidal people? None,” said Chip. “Having dedicated staff who are trauma-informed and understand what services and resources are (available) — our team doesn’t know that, and they don’t have time to know that.”

Block by Block provides social service outreach in several cities, and employs an outreach program manager. Chico Lockhart said outreach workers are trained more extensively in de-escalation and engagement than ambassadors, though “we are training ambassadors in those things more and more” amid a worsening homelessness crisis.

“A lot more downtowns are looking into outreach,” Lockhart said. It has become best practice to have “one or two outreach workers on call in business districts, 40 hours a week.

While it’s not a “one-size-fits all recommendation, … prioritizing outreach coverage in the areas that have the highest presence of unsheltered neighbors” is typical in most communities, according to Lauren Barnes of Built for Zero, a national organization that provides a framework for measurably reduce homelessness.

“If that is part of a particular downtown area/district, then that’s where outreach activities would be concentrated,” Barnes wrote in response to emailed questions. “Dedicated outreach teams in downtown areas working in coordination with businesses, emergency responders and other community members are an important practice to engaging and housing people experiencing homelessness.”

‘Not a no’

Boulder has struggled to provide adequate outreach, instead relying on community nonprofits. A team was established in late 2020 but saw turnover almost immediately. “In 2021, the BTHERE program was inconsistent in both staffing and outreach,” staff noted in a recent update to city council.

Boulder Shelter for the Homeless took over the outreach contract, and a new team will be operational soon. The shelter’s interim director, Spencer Downing, said the plan is to engage with individuals who are otherwise disconnected from the system and services.

“We are hopeful that BTHERE will be reaching out to individuals who are not otherwise connected to services and may possibly not be on lists or other instruments that ends up getting into housing,” Downing said in a February interview. “For the shelter, housing remains a paramount interest. We are not charging the team with the goal of getting people into the shelter (and we) are very, very interested in making sure whatever BTHERE does is not duplicating what is already going on.”

Given the recently revamped outreach team, city officials may be reluctant to approve a request for downtown-specific services.

“It’s not a no,” said Cris Jones, director of Community Vitality, but the department might first like to rely on “existing resources” to fill the need for outreach downtown. That could include fully staffing up other teams that are part of the encampment removal strategy, such as Urban Park Rangers and the police department’s dedicated “encampment cleanup” team and Homeless Outreach Team.

That’s why Community Vitality is asking for only a year of funding, Jones said, rather than an ongoing budget item. That will give the city enough time to see if and how the fully implemented strategy works.

“We want to make sure the ambassadors are supported,” Jones said.

Mayor Aaron Brockett echoed Jones, saying that adding outreach workers downtown is “a fantastic idea” but that they may be budgeted for another program, such as a non-police response team the city is considering.

“The ambassadors have been doing a really good job at their wide variety of functions,” Brockett said. “Having outreach workers who are specifically trained for that and can help connect folks to services or assist them with a problem they’re having, it’s better for those folks who are assisted.”

For now, Zuromski and the other ambassadors will continue to do what they can. For the gentleman he talked to that sunny Tuesday, Zuromski planned to visit him once more that day, then stop by the next morning, maybe with a cup of coffee.

“I can’t take him anywhere. I can’t do anything,” Zuromski said. “All I can do is hope for a better tomorrow for him.”

Author’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the number of groups Block by Block works with.

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle