Downtown Improvement Blog

How to Say No to Panhandlers

How to Say No to Panhandlers

How to say “No” to panhandlers

Research shows panhandlers could become aggressive both by being acknowledged or ignored. Learn how to say no to panhandlers using either approach to minimize aggression.

In areas with heavy panhandling activity, encourage stakeholders, visitors and residents to consider these options to keep their district safe.

If you choose to acknowledge…

  • Make eye contact, do not break your movement and verbally give a succinct, “No.” Most panhandlers will recognize your firm stance and move on.
  • Engage the panhandler with a verbal, “No,” plus a statement of explanation or encouragement.
  • Suggest resources. Remove the attention from yourself and recommend a local shelter.

If you choose to ignore…

  • Do not say anything, and use your body language to say, “No.” Do not make eye contact or break stride. Panhandlers are unlikely to waste their time on someone who doesn’t engage.
  • Leave the area. Silently, directly and calmly walk away from the panhandler.

If the panhandler still gets aggressive…

Do not try to engage them. Suggest to your stakeholders to enter a building or crowd, and contact the local authorities.

For more information on the risks of giving to a panhandler and how respond to aggression, download our free tip sheet How to Say No to a Panhandler.

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DDD Introduces New Paths Program

Assisting the homeless and ex-offenders return to the workforce

New Paths ProgramNEW ORLEANS — The Downtown Development District (DDD) announced a new plan designed to help both homeless individuals and ex-offenders re-enter the workforce. The New Paths initiative includes two programs – Back In Stride and Second Chance.

“The DDD is excited to introduce these new programs,” said DDD President & CEO Kurt Weigle. “By creating opportunities for people to transform their own lives we can reduce recidivism, unemployment and homelessness. While each of these impacts individuals and families, we all pay in the form of higher taxes and decreased quality of life; so, it’s time to interrupt the cycle and the DDD welcomes the opportunity to play its part.”

The Back In Stride program is part of the DDD’s commitment to reducing and eventually ending homelessness. In addition to this new effort, the DDD has demonstrated this commitment by its long-time advocacy for permanent supportive housing, support for affordable housing Downtown, the hiring of a full-time homeless outreach worker as part of its Downtown/HOME partnership with the City of New Orleans, and current work on creating a low barrier homeless shelter.

The Second Chance program for ex-offenders is intended to provide employment opportunity for individuals who may normally be considered unemployable because of a felony conviction. The program will help remove barriers to employment for individuals that, based on a reasonable screening process, are not deemed a threat to public safety.

“Louisiana and the United States are vexed by high incarceration and recidivism rates costing citizens billions of dollars each year,” said DDD Chairperson Judy Barrasso. “According to the United States Department of Justice, the annual cost of incarcerating the approximately 1 in every 100 American adults who is in state or federal prison stood at $80 billion per year in 2010. Fifty-two percent (52%) will be back in jail within three years of their release. However, there are good models for how to break this cycle, and New Paths takes it cue from them.”

For example, the recidivism rate in Norway is 20%, one of the lowest in the world. Several factors likely contribute to the low recidivism rate, including more focus on rehabilitation within the prison system and less on punishment.

As part of its new policy, the DDD will extend extra consideration to RFP respondents who institute a program that successfully employs and supports one or both of the two targeted groups.

The New Paths program will officially begin in August with the DDD’s most recently awarded contract for Sidewalk Cleaning Services, to Block by Block.

Currently, Block by Block operates similar programs in other cities including Cleveland, where through its partnership with a local service provider the SEEDS of Change program provides landscaping skills training to individuals. On average, 12 persons per year gain skills and exposure to employers through the SEEDS program that leads to fulltime employment opportunity.

“We’ve found the job opportunities offered through cleaning and landscaping programs are fantastic first steps for individuals to build their resume,” said Block by Block President Blair McBride. “We’re excited to formalize a program in New Orleans to create such opportunities for persons in transition.”

In New Orleans, Block by Block has partnered with the Urban League of Greater New Orleans to fully implement the DDD New Paths Program, which will include on-the-job training opportunities in safety, cleaning, hospitality, landscaping and technology. As the local service provider, the Urban League will assist with outreach and recruitment and provide career and workforce fundamentals training.

“Our experience working with unemployed, underemployed and re-entry clients throughout our 77-year history, has proven the importance of strong foundational “life” skills as a panacea to sustained employment and reducing recidivism,” said Urban League of Greater New Orleans President & CEO Erika McConduit-Diggs. “We are pleased to partner with the New Paths Program to offer jobseekers essential workforce fundamentals training that is so critical to their success.”

“We look forward to working with Block by Block and the Urban League as we strive to rebuild lives by offering to those in need of a second chance, gainful employment,” concluded Weigle.

Read more at Downtown NOLA.

Learn more about our Ambassador program at Downtown Development District in New Orleans.

Clean and Safe Neighborhood Programs Follow Downtown Cleveland’s Lead

New Clean and Safe Neighborhood Programs in Cleveland

Clean and Safe Neighborhood in Cleveland

Taken from Crain’s Cleveland Business

Several Cleveland neighborhoods are developing their own clean and safe neighborhood programs to provide additional safety and upkeep to their commercial districts after seeing the success of Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s own clean and safe ambassador program.

Local businesses are seeing the benefit of having an easily recognized, unified team of ambassadors in the area to serve the public.

Peter Rubin, President and CEO of Coral Co. located in Shaker Square says, “I think the brand is worth something. We believe people identify the Ambassadors from their uniforms. We were providing much of the same services with a patchwork of contractors, but this delivers the services comprehensively with people who are well-trained.”

Another business owner in support of additional clean and safe neighborhood programs, Jeff Moreau, owner of Sweet Moses, an ice cream shop in Gordon Square Arts District, adds, “As a property owner, it makes the whole area desirable and brings more interest for new businesses that may be considering coming in.”

Crain’s Cleveland Business details the success of the clean and safe ambassador program in more detail, and explains why so many other areas are seeing the appeal. The article continues with a breakdown of how districts are paying for programs like these and the financial gains from such an investment.

Read the full story at Crain’s Cleveland Business.

Photo by Downtown Cleveland Alliance.

Learn more about our Downtown Cleveland Alliance Ambassadors.

Launching Block by Block Campus Services!

Introducing our new division of Block By Block

We are excited to announce Block by Block Campus Services, which focuses on providing our high-quality safety, cleaning and hospitality Ambassador services to campuses across the country. Visit bbbcampusservices.com to learn more.


Block by Block Campus Services

Everyday your university faces real challenges beyond the boundaries of campus

Student perceptions of their own personal safety

Public space concerns like burned out street lights

Deterring crimes so students don’t become victims

No university exposure in off-campus areas

Give it to the ambassadors!

After hours and off-site safety escorts

Daily positive interactions with students

Additional eyes and ears for campus police

Reporting and fixing maintenance issues

Let’s talk

We provide peace of mind to campuses like yours so you can focus on your core business. Contact Block by Block Campus Services today to find out how we can create custom solutions for your university’s unique needs.

Get Started

Cincinnati Ambassadors Prep for 2015 MLB All-Star Game

Downtown Cincinnati Ambassadors are preparing the city for the 86th MLB All-Star Game, July 14, 2015

Cincinnati Ambassadors at All-Star Game
An estimated 200,000 visitors will be gracing the streets of Cincinnati for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game, and Cincinnati Ambassadors are excited to meet, greet and introduce the city.

Ambassadors have been working hard to clean the streets and parks to create a great first impression. They regularly patrol the city to provide directions, answer questions and assist as needed, but they are specifically gathering info on all things Cincinnati related in anticipation of more questions and inquiries from people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the city.

“We get questions about ‘How do I get from downtown, where do I go shopping?’ They’ve heard about OTR, and they want to know what’s the best way to get there. We’ll be able to give walking directions driving directions, and even some public transportation information,” Cincinnati Ambassador, Tricia Suit said.

Read more at Cincinnati’s WLWT Channel 5 News.

Read more at Cincinnati’s WCPO Channel 9 News.

Learn more about our Downtown Cincinnati Ambassador Program.

Heroic Ventura Ambassador rescues children and their father from riptide

Ambassador, Christopher Hoffman, Recognized for Saving Two Children and Their Father From Ocean Currents

Ambassador Rescue in VenturaWe are proud to share this story from our Park Safety Team in Ventura, California — Christopher Hoffman, one of our safety ambassadors, rescued two children and their father from being pulled out into the ocean. The family are all okay thanks to his proactive rescue attempt, and Hoffman has since been recognized by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and local radio station, KNX 1070 NewsRadio, for his heroic rescue.

From the California State Parks Press Release:

California State Parks Recognizes Excellence in Employees and Partners
“Christopher S. Hoffman, Park Aide, Los Angeles: Chris rescued two children and one adult from drowning when he was off-duty and camping with friends at Thornhill-Broome State Beach. A 10-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy were swept out into the ocean on a day when big waves were crashing on the shoreline. The father had gone into the water in an attempt to help. If Chris had not acted heroically, all three lives may have been lost on that afternoon.

The Director’s Recognition Awards Program is a statewide program that recognizes exceptional and outstanding accomplishments in employees and partners that model behaviors that further the mission, goals and core values of California State Parks.”

Ambassador Named KNX News Hero of the Week

Hoffman also received local award “News Hero of the Week” by KNX 1070 NewsRadio.

Listen to the radio podcast here.

Learn more about our Ambassador Program at Downtown Ventura.

Block by Block Ambassadors Hired to Manage Downtown Detroit Cleaning Program

Ambassadors Manage Downtown Detroit Cleaning

Detroit Cleaning Efforts Launch Downtown Clean Ambassador Program

The Downtown Detroit Business Improvement Zone (BIZ), established in April 2014, is partnering with Block by Block to develop their Downtown Clean Ambassador Program and re-energize Detroit cleaning efforts. The move was orchestrated by the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

Detroit cleaning initiatives have aimed to generate job opportunities specifically for Detroit citizens with long-term employment difficulties since the creation of the Clean Downtown program in 2006. Goodwill Industries has spearheaded these efforts and is excited to continue to staff employees for the new Block by Block Ambassador program.

“We’re delivering on what we set out to do nine years ago; this next generation represents the sustainable which was the long term vision of Clean Downtown. We are encouraged about this new direction with Block by Block,” Eric Larson, CEO of Goodwill, said.

“We are excited to blend Block by Block’s national best practices with Detroit social impact through important local partners such as Goodwill Industries.”

The Downtown Detroit Partnership released a statement explaining that the new program will, “deploy a team of uniformed ‘ambassadors’ throughout downtown daily to clean and serve as information resources for downtown businesses, residents and visitors.” This new Detroit cleaning program will launch in June with a new Clean Ambassador Operations Center.

Read more at Detroit Free Press.

Learn more about our Downtown Detroit Cleaning Program.

Photo: 2006 photo by AMY LEANG/DETROIT FREE PRESS

Providence DID Anniversary Celebration

Providence DID Celebrates 10 Years!

Providence DID Celebrates Their 10 Year Anniversary!

Launched in February 2005, Providence Downtown Improvement District celebrated a decade of service to Downtown Providence with a fitting community celebration at the Providence Public Library.

Providence DID has always been about the community — working with the people in the city, business-owners, visitors and residents, to stimulate a better living experience for everyone. The DID partnered with Block by Block during it’s formation to equip the district with ambassadors actively working to bring people together and celebrate what makes Providence so special.

Our ambassadors worked with the Downtown Improvement District to identify their mission: To continuously enhance the quality of life in downtown Providence. This led to the creation of cleaning and safety programs to supplement existing city services. The Providence DID’s highly visible Clean & Safe Teams were formed, and their bright yellow and black uniforms have been a recognizable symbol of friendliness and service to the district ever since.

These ambassadors patrol the streets daily sweeping walkways, collecting litter, removing graffiti, pressure-washing sidewalks, shoveling snow, maintaining landscaping, and contributing to beautifying the district in any way possible.

Ten years later, the programs are still immensely successful. In 2014, Clean and Safe Teams in Downtown Providence:

  • Removed 6,667 graffiti stickers and 4,010 graffiti tags.
  • Collected and removed 648,460 lbs. of trash.
  • Made a combined 10,848 contacts with property and business owners.
  • Spent 1,506 hours watering flowers and 800 hours removing snow.
  • Rode 1,069 miles on bikes while patrolling the district.

Martha Sheridan, president and CEO of the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, stated, “Whether coming to Providence for leisure or business travel, visitors want to arrive in a city that is clean, safe and friendly. The Downtown Improvement District team is a visible reminder for travelers that our city is just that. The DID’s work helps us to position Providence as the inviting, vibrant city that Travel + Leisure readers named number one in the United States.”

So on March 3, the DID proudly came together to celebrate their first decade of operation and all it accomplished, while looking forward to continued growth for the community. Frank LaTorre, DID director of public space, led the program which included PPL Executive Director Jack Martin, DID Chairman Richard Lappin, Mayor Jorge Elorza, Council President Luis Aponte, and Councilman Seth Yurdin.

According to Downtown Providence, LaTorre described the city core as “the downtown for all Providence neighborhoods,” repeating the mayor’s campaign slogan of “One Providence.” He highlighted a variety of DID initiatives–including advocacy for streetscape projects, the Hospitality Resource Partnership and marketing efforts.

Future projects for Providence DID include an increased focus on public art, stronger lighting, activated alleys and more bike/pedestrian-friendly projects.

Read more at Downtown Providence.

Read about recent projects of Providence DID and Block by Block ambassadors at The Providence Journal or GoLocal Prov.

Learn more about our Providence DID ambassador program.

Photo: Marianne Lee

You Can’t Spell “Spray Paint” Without “Pain”

You can’t spell “spray paint” without “pain”

The pain graffiti can cause your district — extra costs, lost investors, negative perceptions — warrants a moment to understanding graffiti better. Know more about the issue to make it your number one target and minimize its impact.

Before and after graffiti

1. It’s intentional.

Graffiti is typically not senseless damage to property.

It’s often committed to send a message, show dissatisfaction, get revenge or make money. Finding out “why” collects insight on the source and how to proceed next.

2. It happens late.

Graffiti is often committed late in the evening, as less people are likely to be around and businesses have less surveillance. After-school hours can be common for juvenile offenders.

Contact and encourage security to be in the right place at the right time to deter new tags.

3. It’s public.

The most common targets are properties where no single organization or individual has direct responsibility.

Consider additional surveillance and communication around public property or private property in public view, especially areas that have been tagged before.

Learn more

Download our free Graffiti Tip Sheet for a better understanding of why, when and where graffiti occurs as well as 8 more strategies to prevent and reduce graffiti in your city.

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