Chelsea McCarty

Posted on Friday February 23, 2024 by

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Bridging Gaps through Empowerment, Resources and Compassion

“It’s brought very sincere moments for me that have opened my eyes and makes me really love the work that my team and I do,” Downtown Santa Monica (DTSM) Outreach Coordinator Donovan Wilkes said reflecting on his work with individuals experiencing homelessness. 

Donovan checks on a street resident.

Through determination, repeat interactions and immense patience, Donovan and his team of Outreach Ambassadors in DTSM make a real difference in the lives of people who are unhoused by connecting them with community resources. 

Every day, Donovan loads his backpack with supplies to serve street residents in DTSM and then hits the streets on foot. His typical walking route includes Downtown’s Promenade and other hotspots where he finds some familiar faces – the regulars of the street community — hanging out. His goal each day is to meet and greet people who are unhoused, offer them connections to resources and generally form relationships with them.  

When speaking to someone, he always asks if they “know anyone” who might be looking for services. By asking if they know someone and not if they need the services themselves, the people he talks to don’t feel pressured by his presence. If they’re interested in information, Donovan will share it, but if they’re not, he’ll just carry on with his walk and plan to try again another day. For the regulars, he’ll just see how they’re doing or if anything new is going on. 

These conversations are generally light and friendly. As he makes his way through the district, he radios his other team members or messages them on their WhatsApp group to see what is happening in the other areas covered by the team. He keeps a lookout for other social service providers to say hello or join forces and walk together to nurture a working relationship toward a common goal of providing solutions for people on the streets. 

Donovan has worked with Block by Block (BBB) off and on since 2015, first as a Safety Ambassador in West Hollywood and later an Outreach Specialist for Westwood in 2017. At Westwood, he got the Outreach Program up and running and was promoted to Operations Manager within two years, where he stayed until 2020. After a brief hiatus working in the non-profit field, Donovan returned to BBB in 2022 and began working with DTSM as an Outreach Coordinator, where he leads a small but mighty team of three Outreach Ambassadors. 

The Outreach Team and the Area They Cover 

BBB’s dynamic Outreach Team led by Donovan consists of three dedicated Outreach Ambassadors — Marc, Michael and Amy — who all worked in community outreach before they joined the team. Their experience and pre-existing relationships with social service providers have helped prepare them for the work they do each day.  

DTSM Outreach Ambassador Amy
Ambassador Amy
DTSM Outreach Ambassador Michael
Ambassador Michael
DTSM Outreach Ambassador Marc
Ambassador Marc

The DTSM Outreach Team efforts are focused on downtown and three parks: Palisades, Reed and Tongva. The parks offer an enticing environment for members of the street population with places to sit, lay down or hide – all with less enforcement than downtown. Palisades Park also faces the ocean, providing a scenic view for transients just passing through the district and local street residents alike.  

Beyond this core team, BBB provides the added resource of an experienced outreach expert in Director of Outreach, Chico Lockhart. Chico has an uncanny ability to mix humor and fun with serious, informative, real-world training. He is an asset to all BBB Outreach Teams nationwide, providing valuable insight, direction and advice. He travels to check in with BBB Outreach Programs across the country and meets with the teams virtually every month for essential mental health training, collaborative discussions and more. 

“The [DTSM] team has a great leader who is very knowledgeable about services and how to get people help in the community.” Chico said. “Donovan is also spearheading meetings with the city/DTSM to discuss system gaps and trying to find ways to collaborate.” 

One way Donovan illustrates these gaps in services is through data. Data plays a large role in understanding the unhoused crisis and working toward solutions for service providers, urban placemaking organizations and stakeholders alike. While the real impact is on the lives of individuals being served at the street level, data is essential to prove the value of the work being done each day by the team and to illustrate why additional services might be needed in the community. Some of this information can also be added to BBB’s proprietary SMART System to produce data and reports for district stakeholders detailing the impact the team has on the community. 

The Outreach Team utilizes SMART System’s “Persons” tool to track the Top Ten people seen and interacted with in the district. Outreach Ambassadors will go over the Top Ten list monthly, making sure the team is aligned with how they are engaging with the individuals they see most frequently. Data can also show if there are any shortcomings in community-wide service delivery, if businesses have repeat incidents with the same people, the number of individuals seen using drugs in the open, interactions made and other pertinent figures. 

The Things They Carry: Snack Packs, Flyers, Narcan and More 

Each member of the DTSM Outreach Team carries a backpack with essentials for whatever they might encounter on their daily walks. In their backpack, they have what they refer to as “Snack Packs,” a prepackaged drawstring bag that includes water, an electrolyte drink, protein shake, tuna or chicken salad, chips, granola bar and, most importantly, Donovan’s business card.  

These packs help get people essential vitamins and nutrients they may be lacking while informing them of local resources and service organizations that are listed on the back of Donovan’s card. Their purpose is to show individuals on the street that our team is here to help them find long-term service solutions that can guide them from Point A to Point B.   

Also in their backpacks are gloves and first aid supplies, hygiene kits and service flyers. The flyers share information on different providers in the area and the specific services they offer, as well as schedules for available services. Donovan stresses the importance of not only putting information in their hands, but making sure information is accurate. Having the right information, Donovan says, is one of the secrets to a successful Outreach Team.  

“A very big difference that my team makes for the community is we provide accurate and supportive information to those at the street level,” Donovan said. “They do know where to go and we are constantly motivating people. The information that we provide, but also the drive we provide to people who are on the streets, letting them know, encouraging them to get ahead of the system and not fall victim to the system.” 

One final item that Outreach Team Members carry is a lifesaving tool called Narcan. Narcan is a medicine that can quickly reverse a narcotics overdose. All team members have been trained to use Narcan. Since they have started carrying it in their packs and storing it at podiums throughout the district, they have responded to six overdoses, five of which they were able to successfully reverse with the medicine.  

In fact, on the same day Marc was trained to use Narcan, he reversed an overdose by himself —quite likely saving the person’s life. 

“Overdoses are happening at alarming rates, not just in Santa Monica,” Donovan said.  “Being able to actually respond to someone experiencing an overdose—I commend my team very much. I applaud my team for that–being able to take action in times that are life and death, giving [people] a second chance to kick addiction.” 

According to The American Journal of Medicine, from 1999 to 2020 overdose deaths in the US more than quadrupled from 6.9 per 100,000 deaths to 30 per 100,000. The US also had more overdose deaths from May 2022 to May 2023 than any other 12-month period in history. Narcan is a powerful resource that helps BBB Outreach Ambassadors fight this fatal problem at the street level. Link 

Donovan received The Citizen Impact Award from Santa Monica Police Department for his assistance reversing an overdose in 2023.

Getting The Right Information: Advocacy and Nurturing Relationships with Community Providers 

Outreach workers are key to helping connect those on the streets with services throughout the city, so those referrals need to reflect accurate information. If a member of the team were to give out incorrect information on services, that could spread quickly through the street population and the team could lose their credibility and respect. 

“DTSM’s Outreach Team not only focuses on relationship building for those experiencing homelessness, but also with the local service providers,” Donovan says. “By building these relationships, a sense of trust is created instantly when making warm handoffs from DTSM’s Outreach Team to the local service providers.”  

The team often goes into the field alongside workers from various community organizations to meet new people together, make recommendations for services or connect individuals they may already know with the other’s resources.  

When not in the field, Donovan spends time researching new resources available to individuals experiencing homelessness. If he finds a new resource, he’ll reach out to the provider to begin fostering a relationship with them, asking to meet for coffee so he can learn more about what they do. 

Some of the community partners DTSM Outreach currently works closely with includes:  

  • The People Concern – a leading housing provider 
  • The Salvation Army – provides a meal program almost daily and assists people going through detox 
  • Safeplace – for youths to get into housing quickly, sometimes even within a week 
  • St. Joseph Center – another leading housing provider 
  • West Coast Cares – focusing on family reunification by helping individuals find their families and problem solve together 
  • Department of Mental Health – take on clients who have more severe mental health issues 
  • Chrysalis – a non-profit assisting with employment 

<link these above> 

“DTSM’s Outreach Team has established strong relationships with those experiencing homeless in DTSM,” Donovan says. “These relationships have resulted from the team continuously checking in with the unhoused and being knowledgeable of resources in the area. By creating these relationships, the Outreach Team is recognized as a reliable support of the [unhoused] community with the [unhoused] population now referring others to inquire about services with DTSM’s Outreach Team.” 

BBB Outreach Members are able to work in tandem with social service providers through use of Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), a local information technology system used to collect client-level data and data on the provision of housing and services to individuals and families at risk of and experiencing homelessness. Link. 

Social service providers across the country enter data on specific individuals experiencing homelessness into HMIS, including providers they are working with, medical history, where they are from or were last located, whether someone is looking for them and much more. Chico was instrumental in getting DTSM’s Outreach Team access to HMIS, which is usually only given to social service providers.  

“It’s typically places like shelters, mental health providers, substance abuse treatment, housing providers and outreach workers at nonprofit agencies,” Chico said. “This is a way for them to track who is helping people and also helps get more funding for those agencies based on metrics…We are not service providers like entities within the Continuum of Care, so we act as a referral source, and we are able to document who is on the streets to keep them on the radar for housing.” 

Chico continued, “HMIS is a game changer because it allows our Outreach Workers to get our unhoused people on the housing list without having to depend on other entities. It also allows us to see where our clients are in the process, whether they’re in shelter, case management, substance abuse treatment or housing. We can also see if they have been approved for housing, so we are able to then find our client and do what is needed for the housing before the voucher window expires.” 

Donovan’s Team can assess resources they should recommend to a person, add notes, photos or documentation into the system and even help locate missing street residents.  

In February of 2023, Donovan’s Team was instrumental in locating someone who was considered “lost.” The Consulate of Sweden came to DTSM looking for a Swedish citizen who had been living in the US for three years as a street resident. In collaboration with the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) and BBB’s DTSM Ambassador Program, Donovan was able to locate the missing man.  

“[The citizen] was transported to and put into a motel by DTSM where SMPD was able to transport [him] to and from The Consulate’s office to prepare his passport and flight tickets. [He] has since returned to his home in Sweden,” Donovan said. 

Ambassador Amy talks with a member of the street population.

Perceptions and Realities in DTSM 

The City of Santa Monica conducts a yearly “Homeless Count” to determine the number of individuals experiencing homelessness. Between 2022 and 2023, the number of individuals living on the street increased 15%. Donovan co-led the 2024 count, and he said early results appear similar to or slightly higher than the numbers from 2023. He said while data has shown that people experiencing homelessness are finding housing, there are also many individuals exiting housing back to the streets. 

“Affordable housing isn’t the most affordable.” Donovan says.  

Housing rates have increased, the cost of living is not cheap and there is not enough affordable housing in Los Angeles or Santa Monica. He says that these factors, mental health and drug abuse are major contributors to the number of people living on the streets.  

“Even spending a week on the street, your mental health will decrease drastically; living on the street puts you in survival mode,” he said.  

When asked about the perception of individuals living on the street versus reality, Donovan says many people just want to be left alone and aren’t necessarily a problem to the public.  

“There are a good amount of people who have mental health [concerns] and mix that with substances, can be frightening. Many people are just living their lives and don’t want to be bothered,” he said.  

Because the Outreach Team has relationships with individuals living on the street, they are often called to de-escalate “scary” situations. They can address the person who might be causing a scene or other incident by name and ask them what’s going on, putting onlookers at ease and finding a resolution without police involvement.  

Donovan recalls a time when his team was called to help with a “notable character” in the district suffering from mental health struggles.  

“He did not engage well. He was racist…He did not do well with women either…so, there were gaps with engaging,” Donovan said. “He had severe mental health issues and was a high functioning substance user.” 

While he wasn’t the nicest, he did want to get off the streets. So, the team was determined to help him. At one point, they managed to secure him housing, but he was kicked out for his behavior, making it unlikely he would be offered housing again. The team worked tirelessly with him to change his ways and, ultimately, were able to encourage him to take the medicine he had been prescribed to help with the mental health issues he was experiencing.  

“He took the medicine [and] his behaviors changed drastically.” After that, Donovan said, he was admitted to housing and is still there today.  

What’s Next for DTSM Outreach? 

Donovan has many goals for his team in 2024 beyond connecting those experiencing homelessness to local service providers. First and foremost, he wants to build an even stronger relationship with The City of Santa Monica to make the best use of their investment in street-level outreach — ensuring the Human Service Department and DTSM Outreach efforts are in line with one another. To do this, Donovan aims to meet with Santa Monica’s Human Service Department, share DTSM Outreach success stories and plan collaborative events.  

Another hope for the future? To get at least one dedicated bed in a local shelter where the team can send a person in need. Currently, the Outreach Team must work through other providers to get individuals in shelters. Donovan dreams of his team being able to directly provide that service to at least one person.  

The Big Takeaway

When faced with a problem as large as homelessness, it is hard to imagine a way to effect real change. Donovan and his team are the boots on the ground doing just that—putting in the time, building relationships and trust with people living on the streets and guiding them in the right direction to live better lives. 

What Donovan finds rewarding about his work is these relationships he builds and the growth he sees in many thanks to the help of the right connections. He watches and reflects on each person’s journey from those first interactions when they may be down on their luck, to those moments when they are housed and on the other side. 

While the work may not always be easy, Donovan and his team are dedicated to making a real difference in DTSM. More than anything, Donovan wants people to know his team’s purpose: “To bridge gaps in communities by empowering people and promoting resources with a compassionate approach.” 

Posted on Thursday December 14, 2023 by

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Who You Gonna Call? Dispatch Services!

A Look at Block by Block Managed Dispatch Service Programs for Hollywood Partnership and Union Square

Two Dispatch Team Members look at computers at the Hollywood Partnership Dispatch Center.

Block by Block is known for delivering exceptional service in public spaces, but our operations go far beyond what is seen at the street level. We operate sophisticated, multifaceted programs that support our teams, customers and their stakeholders in the field. With the addition of dispatch services, we can elevate our service level capacity for our customers.  

While most Block by Block Ambassador Programs across the country respond to calls and requests for services, we are seeing an increased need for formalized dispatch services for the districts we serve. Urban place management organizations (UPMO) have brought dispatch services to the community level to fill gaps in services provided by city resources.   

District-led dispatch services operate much like traditional emergency response — answering calls, dispatching teams, monitoring surveillance and providing an added layer of support for the community. They also lend to the customer service experience by doubling as call-in concierge services for business, residents and visitors alike. Our teams are equipped to handle requests for service ranging from cleanups to intercepting individuals causing disruptions in the public space.   

Dispatch services also have a positive impact on businesses and stakeholders in a community. Public Safety escorts create a better employee experience in today’s tough job market, immediate response to calls means the frustrations of street level incidents are easier to manage (aiding employee retention) and the reports generated by this work can be directly tied back to the specific properties, enabling UPMOs to show the value of the work and identify areas where resources could be more effectively deployed.

Supplementing services 

For many UPMOs across the country, bringing services like cleaning, public safety and dispatch in-house has allowed districts to create better outcomes for their community by supplementing amenities currently provided by the city. By utilizing in-house Dispatch Services, district users can expect quicker response times while preventing unnecessary calls to the police department. 

In January of 2023, The Hollywood Partnership (HP) in Los Angeles unveiled its new Community Dispatch Center which aimed to streamline cleaning, safety and hospitality efforts across the district. It operates around-the-clock with about 90 Safety Ambassadors, Cleaning Ambassadors and Dispatch Members working at any given time. General Manager Sergio Andrades says the community is “like Vegas—never stopping, never sleeping.”  

In their first six months, HP Dispatch received over 9,400 calls for service, including requests for welfare checks, cleanups, safety escorts and more (Hollywood Partnership Community Dispatch Center 6-Month Update). Sergio said most of the calls that come through in the evening are for safety escorts and requests to intervene with members of the street population. 

In many communities across the country, if a member of the street population is causing a disturbance, the police are called. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, they receive 140,000 calls related to homelessness each year. This occupies police time, can escalate the situation unnecessarily and upset the unhoused individual further.   

Because our Ambassadors spend considerable time in their districts, they are known to many members of the community — including the unhoused. When responding to non-emergency calls, Ambassadors can use their established relationships and de-escalation training to handle matters with care and compassion. The Dispatch Center can also help connect individuals with the proper social service agency while monitoring the situation as it unfolds at the street level.  

Working with UPMOs, Block by Block has found implementing operations focused on community-based resources for the unhoused and increased safety initiatives, like dispatch centers, is working to enhance perceptions of public safety for our customers all while improving quality of life for the community at large.  

“I wanted to commend you on all the work you all put in everyday to make Hollywood Boulevard a better place.” Hollywood resident Sydney Koepke shared via email. “[Before the Ambassadors], it felt super unsafe and dirty. I see a huge difference every day…in how Hollywood is being turned around. I really appreciate you all for continuing to help Hollywood become a safer, cleaner place for all of us.”  

Hollywood Partnership Ambassadors walk the district.

Synergy of Services 

Block by Block launched hospitality services for HP in 2019 with a team of just 14 Ambassadors. By early 2023, Block by Block expanded services to include cleaning, safety and dispatch, growing the program to 90 employees. The client, already familiar with Block by Block, knew working with one company who can fulfill a variety of service needs effectively is easier than consulting with multiple companies to complete tasks that often overlap.   

We’ve seen a similar transition for the Union Square Alliance in San Francisco. Block by Block has provided Ambassador Services in various capacities for the improvement district since 2015. Upon contract renewal in October 2023, Block by Block expanded programming to include Member Services — dispatch and other community resources — which was previously managed in-house by Union Square staff. Block by Block not only took over operational duties for the Member Services, but also administrative responsibilities like human resources and payroll for the team.  

An added benefit is having a cohesive program all under the operational oversight of one person — General Manager Lance Goree. Lance oversees all elements of the Union Square program including cleaning, hospitality, placemaking and dispatch services. Not only does this provide budgetary benefits for customers, but also elicits a unified response to calls for service.  

According to Sergio, Block by Block’s ability to manage Dispatch Services “sets us apart” from other service providers. Without a dedicated Dispatch Team, handling calls for requests falls on UPMO management or the Ambassador Team. These calls can interrupt the busy workload of these individuals, leading to difficulty following up and making sure tasks are completed. With devoted Dispatchers, requests are always completed from beginning to end.  

“Our Dispatch Team is waiting for your call,” Sergio said. “They help alleviate requests coming in and they trust that the requests will be completed by the teams in the field. They trust but verify by calling and getting photos. They then follow up with the people who made the requests.”  

Expanding Community Partnerships  

The HP Community Dispatch Center is unique in that it is a collaborative partnership with the City of Los Angeles, Council District 13, Los Angeles County, LAPD and Hollywood 4WRD. When a call or request comes in, depending on the need of the call, the dispatch team directs the call to one of the aforementioned agencies or to BBB Safety, Hospitality and Cleaning Ambassadors. This allows requests and incidents to be funneled to the appropriate channels which are best suited to handle them most effectively.  

A March 2022 survey conducted by the International Downtown Association identified addressing homelessness as the top priority for its U.S. members. For HP, that means working to address homelessness, addiction and mental health concerns for unhoused people in the district by connecting them with programs that can provide services to get the help they need. As calls come in regarding individuals who are unhoused, they can be directed to those in the partnership who work with the specific need.   

Recently an assault resulting in a head injury was reported to the Community Dispatch Center. An HP Ambassador was the first to respond and consequently called 911 for an elevated response due to the violent nature of the assault. LAPD response took 30 minutes, during which the Ambassador Team mobilized to keep eyes on the suspect and monitor his location.   

The Ambassador had taken a photo of the victim and collected all pertinent information to give to LAPD upon their arrival on the scene, which was after the victim had been transported to the hospital. The Ambassadors directed the LAPD officers to the suspect and subsequently an arrest was made.   

“If it weren’t for [the Ambassadors] sticking around and gathering all the information while concurrently monitoring the suspect’s location, LAPD would not have been able to make an arrest and it’s possible the incident wouldn’t even have been documented, much less an arrest effected,” Angela La Riva, Vice President of Operations for HP, said. 

“Due to our footprint in the [Hollywood Entertainment District], we are often the first to receive reports of violence and theft. With our [law enforcement] partners being so severely understaffed, we are often tasked to assist in connecting victims with [the police department] and providing important information so an investigation can be conducted. We play an important role in keeping Hollywood safe. This is fantastic work and a great example of how our team can partner with our public safety partners and help victims in the community.”  

The Hollywood Partnership Dispatch Center disperses call and email requests through a variety of channels to ensure appropriate responses. (Hollywood Partnership Community Dispatch Center 6-Month Update)

Quick, Efficient, Response  

Having a dedicated Dispatch Team makes a significant difference in the ability to respond to requests for services. Both HP and Union Square Alliance utilize software that ensures every request is followed through from beginning to end. This guarantees service delivery for community stakeholders, promising districts they always get what they pay for.   

The average response time for a request to HP Dispatch is 8-minutes (Community Dispatch Center 6-Month Update). Two HP Dispatchers monitor phones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, awaiting calls and emails from district stakeholders, visitors, businesses or residents.  

Once a request is received, it is inputted into a software application that alerts the Ambassador Team of the request. The team will respond by priority based on the severity or urgency of the request. For instance, a request to handle a disgruntled individual would take precedence over a graffiti removal request. Sergio said lately there have been many calls requesting trash cleanup, and in June alone his teams collected 78 tons of garbage.   

When Dispatch Team Members arrive for their shift, they review the app to ensure requests are being taken care of and reports are being closed. To document a request’s completion, HP Ambassadors will send photos of the completed work in the app or to Block by Block’s proprietary data collection and reporting software, the SMART System.  

A Union Square Ambassador sweeps up a mess.

Like HP, Union Square Member Services operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phone lines are monitored around the clock to ensure all requests are heard, documented and handled. Union Square also has an elaborate security camera system in place the team monitors for unfolding situations or possible threats that may need to be addressed by Ambassadors, security personnel or police officers.   

As calls and requests come in, the team will triage them based on priority and to which department they need to be directed. Requests involving members of the street population are forwarded to the security team, while those that can be handled by Ambassadors are sent to them accordingly. If the situation escalates or calls for it, it will be handed over to local police officers. The requests are dispersed via radio, a queue on SMART System or by calling Team Leads directly on their work phone for requests that are more private in nature.  

Union Square uses District360 to manage requests. District360 is a Customer Relationship Management system that works directly with Salesforce that BBB Ambassadors use on their devices. Like in HP, not all requests are for BBB Ambassadors. So, requests are always first entered into Salesforce before being distributed to the responsible parties who may be using other software programs or response plans.  

When a request is inputted into Salesforce for an Ambassador, Ambassadors will be pinged in District360 on their handheld devices to notify them that something needs to be addressed. Most of the time, Member Service Team Members will follow up to confirm tasks have been completed, ensuring guaranteed service delivery from beginning to end for stakeholders in the district. 

As the landscape of public spaces continues to evolve, the importance of community-based services remains a priority for many UPMOs. Block by Block is focused on providing Ambassador Programs that go beyond clean and safe, and Dispatch Centers like those in Union Square and Hollywood show the value of having a service partner who can deliver on bettering districts.  

If you want to discuss how BBB can provide Dispatch Services for your district or community, reach out to Aaron Perri at .   

A Union Square Ambassador provides hospitality.

Posted on Wednesday September 27, 2023 by

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Bay Area Support Provides a World of Difference

Block by Block (BBB) prides itself on being a leader in the industry, serving more downtown districts and public spaces than any other competitor in the field. Part of what sets us apart is our dedication to the people we hire and the services we provide for our customers. This dedication can be seen in two individuals and the positions we have created specifically for our California Bay Area customers: Zori Nevarez as Regional Recruitment Coordinator and Bob Martins as Regional Maintenance Mechanic.

Zori and Bob are both exceptional individuals in their own rights, since even before they came to where they are now at BBB. In these roles, they provide customers with the best possible service entirely unique to BBB.

Zori Nevarez, Regional Recruitment Manager – A Passion for People

At her previous company, Zori was a regional manager for a retail financial company where she recruited and trained people for more than 20 years. Tired of the stress of finance and retail, she found her home here at BBB where she has been successfully recruiting and training Ambassadors for two years as Regional Recruitment Coordinator.

There are two parts to Zori’s position: recruiting and training. As far as recruiting goes, managers from various accounts will come to her with an opening. From there, she takes over posting the position on hiring sites and conducting initial interviews via Zoom or phone calls. She forwards suitable candidates back to the managers to interview and make their final choice. Once someone has been hired, she takes over again to do full-cycle onboarding and train the individuals on BBB standards and best practices for their work out in the field.

After employees have been hired, then comes the training. Every other week, Zori hosts a two-day, new-hire training for new employees from 15 accounts in the Bay Area in one central location in Union Square. Each training typically has an average of seven employees from all over the Bay Area but can have as many as 15-20 at maximum.

Training consists of videos, open dialogue and discussions about personal experiences. Zori will discuss a wide range of topics that not only include the work specific to each type of Ambassador or job title, but also important sensitive responsibilities like how to de-escalate a situation, interact with the street population and handle individuals experiencing a mental health episode.

Zori said there are benefits to having the training with Ambassadors from multiple accounts because they “can talk about the different areas and how visitors or residents affect each area and how to handle them.”

Operations Supervisor Freddie “Raven” Anderson with Union Square, San Francisco works closely with Zori as her training takes place in the same building where his account operates.

“Sending our incoming Ambassador staff upstairs to Zori for initial training is a huge advantage,” Raven said. “Often, trying to conduct in-house training during daily operations can be confusing to a new hire and there are often time constraints or distractions that causes a new employee to get less attention than what they get with Zori.”

Zori’s position is unique to BBB in that she takes the time to ensure that when someone first starts with BBB, they are trained for more than just their basic job responsibilities. Trainees not only receive the tools to do their job successfully, but they also learn about how to help those struggling with mental health issues, show visitors hospitality and more.

“When a new hire comes back to us from Zori’s training, they are up to speed on operational procedures and BBB protocols, which saves us a considerable amount of time and allows a smoother transition during the hands-on training we can provide in the field,” Raven said.

Zori’s attention to the new employees doesn’t stop after training, however. She follows up with each person’s manager to discuss employee strengths and potential weaknesses that need to be addressed in the field. She will even message the employee directly to wish them a happy first day or remind them of upcoming meetings.

When asked what she enjoys most about her job, Zori said: “I love it all; I truly love my job. So, I can’t say I have one thing.” She said that she is particularly proud that BBB gives second chance opportunities to individuals who may be facing obstacles preventing them from establishing steady work. She has even hired individuals who were living in their cars to help them get back on their feet.

“I love helping people be able to feed their families and see them successful in the various accounts,” Zori said. “I’ve seen Ambassadors I’ve hired become Team Leads, so helping them grow with the company makes me very proud.”

Bob Martins, Regional Maintenance Mechanic — “Mr. Fix It”

Bob grew up tinkering on cars with his father in the garage of their home in the 70s and 80s. He says cars were made differently back then. You could open the hood and work on them, take them apart, and put them back together. His dad was an IBM machinist by day but made working on cars the “fun stuff.”

Bob started working with a company that operated in the San Jose Downtown Association before BBB took over the account. He would watch maintenance technicians that the account manager hired to fix equipment as they made their repairs. It wasn’t long before he realized he could easily make the same repairs. After mentioning it to his boss, he became “Mr. Fix It.” He started changing the oil in the equipment, making minor repairs and ultimately repairing pressure washing vehicles. Bob worked with San Jose Groundwerx for 15 years, the first five with a company that would later be bought by BBB and the remainder with BBB.

The Regional Maintenance Mechanic position Bob now holds is a new position that BBB determined would be an asset to Bay Area accounts. From his knowledge growing up tinkering and the time he spent learning about and repairing equipment in San Jose, Bob was the perfect candidate to travel from account to account making repairs in the Bay. Each evening, Bob determines where he needs to go the next day. He takes off from his home base in Lathrop around 6 – 7 a.m. to make the drive to whatever account needs his maintenance skills.

Bob also manages BBB’s Bay Area Storage Facility with extra fleet equipment in case an account has a major breakdown or needs to borrow a piece of equipment for any reason. The facility houses extra All-Terrain Litter Vehicles (ATLVs), pressure washer trucks, a pickup truck and more. This equipment is loaned out, free of charge, to accounts that need it.

Bob’s position and the fleet storage facility were investments BBB made to bolster our regional support and ensure a quick repair time to keep Ambassadors out and about doing what they do best.

The purpose of this new position, which Bob began in March, is to keep account equipment working, reduce the amount of down time between breakdowns and save BBB and our customers money on what otherwise would be outsourced labor repairs. There are 16 BBB accounts in the Bay Area, and Bob performs repairs for all that have mechanized equipment — which is most of them. Account managers will call or text Bob when something goes down, and he will get them on his next available schedule to drive out and make the repairs.

He is also quick to respond to repair requests. “If you call me today, nine times out of ten, I will be there tomorrow,” he said.

“Bob is fantastic,” said Raven. When Bob worked maintenance for Groundwerx, Raven said he or his team members would drive from San Francisco to San Jose, about a 30-minute drive, just to have Bob fix equipment. Raven has also learned a lot from Bob over the years, as Bob has taken the time to show him how to make minor repairs like replace water pumps, hoses, unloaders and other parts on their equipment.

“Having regional maintenance support saves us travel time, labor repair costs, parts cost and gets us back in service faster than waiting on a shop or outside service provider,” Raven added.

Despite driving every day, Bob doesn’t think he will ever get burned out. Listening to comedy podcasts, seeing the scenery and what’s off the side of the road keeps him entertained through the long driving hours. He enjoys the freedom and trust he has from his boss Semu One Bear, Pacific West Regional Vice President. Working for Semu again, whom he worked with in San Jose years ago, is another highlight.

“I hope this lasts until I can retire,” Bob said. “I want this program to succeed. Maybe in the future if this succeeds up here and in Southern California, maybe we can implement similar programs across the country and find good people to do what I do.”

“And, maybe then I can run that from a computer and get off the road,” he added, laughing.