The streets of downtown Detroit are happier and brighter with the addition of nearly 50 official “Detroit Ambassadors” sporting neon green polo shirts and welcoming smiles. They’re all part of the Downtown Clean Ambassador Program, funded through what’s known as the Downtown Detroit Business Improvement Zone. Landowners in this zone pay a special assessment which is expected to generate $4 million each year. A portion of those funds cover the cost of the program.
The Kentucky-based group Block by Block manages the program and Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit provides ambassadors who aim to make Detroit a cleaner, safer and more inviting place to work, live and visit. The friendly crew hit the streets in June doing work across Detroit from the downtown area to the Detroit Riverfront, Corktown, Midtown and more.
There are three types of ambassadors, each with a unique role that benefits the city.
‘Clean ambassadors’ soften the city’s appearance by cleaning and making small changes that enhance the aesthetics of the community. The ambassadors power wash graffiti and pick up trash- always keeping in mind the motto, “people notice small changes.”
‘Safety ambassadors’ serve as an extra set of eyes and ears to help the police control crime. The program’s organizers firmly believe that more eyes on the street deter crime and encourage people to make better choices.
Lastly, ‘hospitality ambassadors’ want to change the culture of Detroit. They hold doors for people, provide directions and say “good morning” to those passing by. Hospitality ambassadors, like clean ambassadors, recognize that people notice small changes. They focus on the little things that make people want to return to downtown Detroit.
Joshua Smith-Bogan, an ambassador program supervisor, works on the ground with his team on a daily basis. Bogan’s job is to inspire and empower his team in the downtown district. He keeps them full of positive energy and optimism so they remember that they are making a difference in the city.
Bogan, 23, is a recent graduate of Wayne State University in Midtown. This supervising role is his first job after college, and he sees it as the most influential way to make a difference in the community that he loves.
“I’m doing stuff that may seem small to others, but it is really big to people,” Bogan said confidently.
Bogan appreciates the program’s emphasis on changing behavior.
“We want people to migrate back to Detroit and that has to start with the culture,” he said. “We encounter as many people as possible and try to make them remember Detroit.”
He firmly believes in Detroit and the Detroit Ambassadors program.
“We are trying to make Detroit feel like home,” he said. “Now Detroit has a chance to shine.”
Detroit Ambassadors take pride in their city and their work! Get to know more of these amazing people below!
Chiquita Sanders, 21, lives in Detroit and is a Hospitality Ambassador in the downtown area. She originally applied for the Ambassador Program in Grand Rapids, but immediately transferred her application upon learning that the program was coming to Detroit.
Chiquita loves meeting new people on a daily basis through the Ambassador Program. “I didn’t know Detroit had so many nice people,” she said laughing.
In her time with the program, Sanders says she has developed great relationships with downtown businesses and they often invite her into their stores.
Favorite Ambassador memory: While she was cleaning graffiti and peeling stickers off signs on Congress Street, visitors came by and gave her high-fives and complimented her work!
Favorite food in downtown Detroit: Hard Rock Café- she loves their ribs!
“When they told me what we were going to do as far as helping people, like the visitors and the tourists, I was hooked,” she said.
Larry Patman, 45, works on “special projects” for the Riverfront district. This Detroit sports nut is inspired to contribute to the city’s ongoing resurgence because he has fond memories of spending time downtown during his childhood. He recalls coming to the city with friends to go shopping and he sees “very good prospects” of the same thriving environment returning to downtown Detroit.
Favorite food in downtown Detroit: Niki’s Pizza, an Italian Restaurant in Greektown– “I’m a real pizza man.”
“When we see any assistance is needed, we do the best we can. It’s a difficult task sometimes, but we do the very best we can,” Patman said.
Delshaun, 34, is a lifelong Detroiter. He works as a clean ambassador in Campus Martius Park. His involvement with the ambassador program began with Goodwill Industries, which he credits with helping people “get back on their feet.”
Favorite aspect of program: The people and the sightseeing — he loves meeting unique people daily and seeing the new places in downtown Detroit.
Favorite food in downtown Detroit: Another Hard Rock Café lover! Delshaun’s favorite meal is the bacon burger!
“The atmosphere, environment and people are changing. The people are happy and getting along. It’s a nice environment,” he said.