With the District operating under a shelter-in-place order, the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) remains open for business. This means that the BID’s red-and-black uniformed Safety/Hospitality and Maintenance (SAM) Ambassadors are hard at work seven days a week, cleaning and maintaining the streets and sidewalks of DowntownDC, cleaning and sanitizing public space assets and assisting individuals experiencing homelessness and other individuals in need in new ways.
Learn more about how the BID’s ambassadors are facing new challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic and what support is available to DowntownDC stakeholders below in the Q&A interview with Gerren Price, the BID’s director of public space operations.
Q: Can you first briefly explain what role BID ambassadors serve in the District?
A: For the DowntownDC BID and all BIDs in the District of Columbia, ambassadors have always played the role of being the first face and interaction people have with a neighborhood, serving as the eyes and ears on the ground and for keeping our neighborhoods clean and safe.
Q: Would you describe the daily duties for ambassadors under the closure order?
A: Foot traffic has decreased significantly in DowntownDC and we have seen a natural reduction in the amount of trash we need to collect daily. But that trash collection remains a significant daily duty for our team and now needs to be managed in a different way. We are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to handle trash and waste differently to protect the health and safety of our ambassadors as well as to avoid spreading potential contamination. Our ambassadors are also playing a new, important role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 by daily sanitizing and cleaning public space assets including bus shelters, benches and outdoor tables and chairs. Even Chef José Andrés stopped by last week to take a photo with our staff and check on the work we are doing.
As we have in the past, the BID will play a role in recovery, and we are also taking on landscaping, cleaning and other projects to maintain standards for public space during this closure order in preparation.
Q: How is the DowntownDC BID continuing to support individuals experiencing homelessness and individuals with food insecurity?
A: With the Downtown Day Services Center for individuals experiencing homelessness temporarily closed, the BID was able to work with the DC Department of Human Services (DHS) to continue daily lunchtime meal service, including weekends, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm in the park adjacent to the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Our ambassadors are currently serving 75-100 lunches a day along with hygiene kits. Our street outreach provider, Pathways to Housing DC, also continues face-to-face support and assistance and now also connects individuals to health care services related to COVID-19.
Q: How is the BID supporting efforts to maintain cleanliness and safety for individuals in public space?
A: Our BID and other BIDs in the city have been working with the District Government to get outdoor handwashing stations placed in certain locations in the District and we are pleased to share that Franklin Park and McPherson Square have a public station, thanks to DHS. In addition to handwashing stations, BIDs are also working with the city on securing restroom accommodations in DowntownDC. We immediately noticed on March 16 that as closures began to take place, more individuals were using public space to relieve themselves. A team of ambassadors in DowntownDC has been working to eliminate waste in public space as a matter of public health and safety and continues to do so.
Q: How can stakeholders connect with the BID and learn more about resources and support during the COVID-19 response?
A: I encourage any stakeholder who has concerns or questions about public space to directly reach out to our ambassador Dispatch Office for any on-the-street needs at 202-624-1550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also provide regular forums for our stakeholders to connect them with local and District leaders. This week, I hosted a property manager and safety alliance meeting to offer the latest updates on the BID, safety and other information related to the District’s COVID-19 response. That meeting is archived and available online here.
Like all BIDs in the District, we also continue advocating for and promoting our stakeholders, as well as curating information for them related to this crisis. Individuals can go online to downtowndc.org/coronavirus for the latest information and resources on COVID-19 in DowntownDC. We have also created a webpage with information on how to help our local businesses downtowndc.org/supportlocal.