Downtown Improvement Blog

A Day in the Life of a Downtown Ambassador Video

Watch this Downtown Ambassador Video to Follow a Typical Day in the Life of an Ambassador

Welcome to a day in the life of a Block by Block Ambassador! Created by some of our talented team in beautiful Downtown Santa Monica, check out this fresh take as you follow an ambassador around from morning briefings and assisting visitors to cleaning patrols and communication with businesses. THIS is what being an Ambassador is all about!

Read more about our program at Downtown Santa Monica.

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.

Download Now

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 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.