Meet our ambassadors
The Downtown Reno Partnership hired 17 ambassadors (originally 14) and an operations manager through Streetplus, a company with 25 years experience cleaning up city districts.
Our ambassadors patrol the downtown Reno area in blue, black and white uniforms. Their polo shirts display our logo and the word “Ambassador” on them. Their job is to create a cleaner, safer, friendlier environment for visitors and residents.
Our ambassadors work with Reno Police and City of Reno staff to accomplish these four major tasks:
- Cleaning: Ambassadors work with city staff to clean up graffiti, streets, weeds and snow.
- Safety: Ambassadors patrol the district and communicate with police to help triage situations to reduce nuisance calls so police can focus on larger issues. Ambassadors offer personal escorts for people who feel uncomfortable walking from place to place.
- Social outreach: Ambassadors help direct people to supportive services, while also engaging with those chronically sleeping on private property. StreetPlus also employs licensed social workers to build relationships with transient populations who need additional help.
- Hospitality: The ambassadors can engage with visitors and tourists who need help finding activities, directions or information about downtown Reno. They will also add an additional layer of help during large downtown events.
The ambassadors are one branch of the Downtown Reno Partnership. To learn more about other parts of our mission to make a better downtown, go to the About Us section.
“Your work is not only improving the downtown experience, but also helping less fortunate get back on their feet…”
Ambassador statistics and accomplishments
The Downtown Reno Partnership ambassadors record their activities, encounters and reports into a central database. Streetplus produces a monthly report capturing their training, statistics and accomplishments. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the major statistics for the month and uploaded a full report at the end of each list.
Ambassadors were also featured in the Veterans Day parade where they first hit the streets a year ago. Our team has been working hard to keep the river and other encampment sites clean inside our zone. While out on the river, our outreach team has been utilizing these engagements with the homeless population to also conduct surveys using the VI-SPIDAT vulnerability tool. The VI-SPDAT was initially created by combining the elements of the vulnerability index, which was created and implemented by Community Solutions broadly in the 100,000 Homes Campaign, and SPDAT Prescreen Instruments that was part of the Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool. The combination of these two instruments was performed through extensive research, development, and testing. The development process included the direct voice of hundreds of individuals with lived experience.
This month Ambassadors have focused specifically on a few chronically homeless individuals. The goal is to assist them as closely as possible while helping them navigate the system of service providers and doing whatever it takes to keep individuals off the streets and out of the system.
The first was Charles Anderson. The beginning of the month, Charles mentioned that he was ready to get sober and off the streets. After being denied by two separate hotels for either his appearance or past experience, Ambassadors were able to find him a room in a hotel which was paid for by his Social Security. Shortly after Ambassadors were able to connect him to Fiduciary Services where his money will be properly managed for him and his bills paid on time. During this time, Ambassadors were able to take him to food pantries, helping to food services, help him with clothing and other basic necessities and also see to it that he made all of his appointments.
In less than a month, Charles was placed in permanent housing and has maintained his sobriety.
Next was Shelley Bellamy who was homeless at the park and had been on and off for the last nine years. We were able to place her in housing, find a location for her belongings, and have her admitted into a long-term program with the help of several different members in the community. Shelley is still in the program and maintains her sobriety.
Using what we’ve learned from working with individuals like Charles and Shelley, the Ambassadors’ goal is to create a flow chart that could easily be used to assist someone out of homelessness when they are ready. We do this by identifying the gaps in service, and then looking for providers to bridge them (Gaps Analysis).
This month, Ambassadors continued leadership training with John Firestone. Supervisors, Operations Manager, and Outreach Specialists were given additional training designed to ensure a more sustainable structure within the team. They learned to identify and nurture each Ambassador’s strong points, and the pros and cons of transitional versus transformational leadership tactics. Since the beginning of the training, turnover rate has dropped significantly.
Outreach is facing obstacles with transitional living from motel to home for individuals who are struggling to find apartments. We find that it’s not just a lack of resources, but also a lack of communication. Outreach is establishing a direct line of communication with organizations such as Living Stones, Reno Behavioral Health, Crossroads, Volunteers of America, and Little Flower Church. Also, once in housing, how can we set up a continuum of care to ensure that the individual does not cycle back on to the streets? We are looking to establish a better line of communication with CoC/wrap-around service options.
Awards and recognition
Employee of the Month: Molly McCarley for her consistency and constant growth
Caught Doing Something Right: Maryann Barta for her patient work with Troy that resulted in getting him to go to a hospital for several issues that were well past due.
This month we added four new ambassadors whose purpose is to keep the pathway from the Wolf Pack Tower at the Circus Circus to the University clean safe and friendly. This adds an additional 104 hours that ambassadors will be on the streets connecting and conditioning.
Training is paramount, and this month the ambassadors have received continuous leadership training from John Firestone, the executive director of the Life Change Center.
Ambassadors spend several hours on certain serial inebriates living on our downtown streets. In some cases we have to call emergency services sometimes several times a day for one person. Whether it’s an overdose, (sometimes the same person will overdose multiple times
a day), or a non-responsive individual due to alcohol, a lot of time, energy and resources are given to responding to these situations. A possible solution that we are exploring is petitioning the courts on the individuals’ behalf to have Washoe County Public Guardian assume guardianship. This is a long process and won’t work for everyone but considering the time invested in being reactive it is definitely a step in the right direction.
Awards and recognition
Ambassador of the Month – Ahnica Immers
Caught Doing Something Right – Chris Robinson
Ambassadors’ constant contact with the street population allows us to have insight and a connection to people that could possibly be life saving. During the month of July, the Social Service Outreach Specialists have been developing a relationship with Asia, a homeless woman who was thought to be pregnant and still actively using methamphetamines. After a period of engagements, the Outreach Specialist was able to convince her to go to the hospital for an evaluation. It was discovered she wasn’t pregnant, but has a large cyst on her ovary. The hospital stressed the importance of having it removed and the ambassadors were able to help schedule an appointment to do so.
One of our ongoing initiatives is education and training. The Ambassadors are receiving monthly training from the Reno Police Department about new and existing ordinances and laws that can affect the downtown area and how we can work together to implement them.
Ambassadors have also been staying connected to local providers and residents by attending and having a booth at Washoe County Sheriff’s Office’s Community Resource Fair.
Awards and recognition
Ambassador of the Month – Chris Robinson was selected as the Ambassador of the Month for July 2019.
Caught Doing Something Right – Cailen “Kat” Gersch for her quick response and assistance in a river rescue.
Ambassadors have been working with Charles, who is chronically homeless with numerous health issues. After months of referrals and hospital visits, Charles was placed into a program with housing provided by WellCare through Community Court.
A woman named JoAnne, who was stranded in Reno, was assisted by Ambassadors in getting a train ticket home. The Ambassadors were also successful in getting her clothes for the trip.
Anthony was helped by our Social Service Outreach Specialists to get insurance and treatment for an abscess tooth that had become unbearable.
This month Senator Cortez-MAsto visited our office. She met the Executive Director, Alex Stettinski, members of the board, several ambassadors, and toured the downtown area. She offered her support and expressed her gratitude for programs like this that are pioneering solutions.
Advantage CPR trained all of our ambassadors in first aid and CPR, which resulted in our ambassador supervisor, Cailen Gersch saving a life the exact same day the training was given. We have also increased our training with the RPD Downtown Enforcement Team to a monthly schedule and our social outreach team began weekly ride alongs with RPD’s community liaison.
Ambassadors will be extending hours and their new schedule is from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. This will offer more support for the upcoming events and accommodate the longer summer days. In addition, ambassador zones will be adjusted to give more coverage.
Awards and recognition
Ambassador of the Month is Donald Griffin for his work ethic and consistency. Caught Doing Something Right is Cailen Gersch for effectively utilizing her CPR training to save a life downtown.
An ambassador witnessed a man being chased out of a liquor store next to McDonald’s. After interviewing the employees of the liquor store, the Ambassador learned that the man stole. The ambassador called the Reno Police Department and followed him to Walgreens. The man was arrested.
While conducting a check at Amtrak, an ambassador was successful in holding a departing train in order for an elderly man was able to buy a ticket and board the train to Chicago. He was going to Chicago to see his Grandchildren for the first time.
During a patrol, one of the ambassadors engaged a man who complained that his legs were numb and his head was “pounding.” The ambassador called for medical assistance and the male was transported to Saint Mary’s for treatment.
In the month of May we brought on new ambassadors and new social outreach specialists. All of them have proven to be worthy of their posts. Quite often we are confronted with service-resistant people on the streets, which translates into us investing a lot of time on the same individuals. When we do eventually get one of the service resistant into treatment it’s a win for the team and the city. This month, one of our newest ambassadors and our new social outreach specialist were able to convince “Jamie,” who we’ve been working with since October, to finally get help for his meth addiction.
Ambassadors also serve as event support, and this month they had a presence at the Chinese Concert, the Solar Roller Trophy Rally and the Bernie Sanders Rally.
Ambassadors have been ramping up for summer events in the downtown area such as Street Vibes, BBQ Blues and Brews and The Great American Craft Faire. The hours of operation have extended from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. to better accommodate and support these events that draw thousands of people.
Marinan Barta was selected for ambassador of the month for her consistency in service work and her commitment to making a positive impact on our streets. Chris Robinson was selected for Caught Doing Something Right for his empathetic approach to our street population and positive feedback from our stakeholders.
Constant training is extremely important for our ambassadors. This month, they received Narcan training and polished up on their service-based approach. West Hills and Eddy House provided training on services provided and proper process. The Reno Police Department educated the team on common downtown Reno municipal codes. Ambassadors climbed the Whitney Peak wall with Miss USA contestants and partnered with Reno Works on a river clean-up.
We are always excited to see our initiatives turn to accomplishments. This month, our initiative to speak at the Washoe County Jail inmates resulted in 3 inmates coming directly to the ambassadors for resources, housing or just to thank us, upon their release. Our goal in speaking at the jail is to build trust and reduce recidivism. So far, outcomes are proving effective.
Our relationship with the Reno Police Department is vital to our team making a positive impact on the streets downtown. In the month of May, ambassadors will be going on ride alongs, with the Downtown Enforcement Team to build stronger working relationships between agencies and to develop a better understanding of how to reach a common goal.
This month Cailen Gersch is being recognized as employee of the month for her unwavering positive mindset and strong work ethic. Donald Griffeth is also being recognized for repeated calls of gratitude from our downtown population.
Click for full report
In addition to building new relationships, the ambassadors place huge emphasis on nurturing existing ones. Our working partnership with Health Plan of Nevada resulted in several people being housed, insured or placed in treatment this month. We also hosted a Medicine on the Move Clinic at our Pavilion that brought medical care directly to the homeless population. Working directly with
Reno Police Department we are able to identify individuals committing nuisance infractions that result in citations to Community Court. This court is designed to drive offenders to receiving services and has been consistently growing.
Before and after
Click for full report
In order for the Downtown Reno Partnership to continue to succeed we must collaborate with local agencies. Last month we started a needle clean up with Change Point from Northern Nevada Hopes. This has evolved into a multi-agency weekly outreach including Project Help Nevada and soon will include Northern Nevada Urban Indian. This outreach offers services and basic supplies to those in need. It also serves as a vehicle for building rapport and connections necessary for more positive outcomes.
Being homeless means that you’re going to have to walk a lot. Eventually this can take a toll on your feet. We find many of our population stranded where they sit because of an inability to walk any further. In order to easily transport individuals in this situation to nearby services St. Mary’s donated a wheelchair to the Ambassadors that will be used to more efficiently move stranded individuals to a more safe and suitable locations.
Click for full report
Some of our greatest accomplishments at the Downtown Reno Partnership include working with Earl. Earl is a Veteran from Alturas, Calif. who was passing through Reno on the way to his sister’s house when his bus had an unexpected stop due to the weather. Because of his physical and mental health, Earl became disoriented and lost in downtown. When we found him, we were able to connect him with his sister, and create a plan to get him home. We got him safely to the VA and worked closely with him, his case manager at the VA and his sister over the course of the next few days until he was on the next bus home.
Education is paramount so we sent two of our ambassadors to the Bridges out of Poverty training that teaches strategies for professionals and communities to better serve our homeless population. We also received training from the Director of Clinical Services at Reno Behavioral, Dr. Anderson which is geared towards working with persons with mental illness. We attended Homeless Connect event where we were able to engage with close to 600 homeless people and networked with most of the local service providers.
Our partnerships with Health Plan of Nevada, Reno Behavioral, Project Help, VOA, and many others have made it possible to link over 50 people this month to either housing treatment, or other services that will help to improve their situation.
Before and after
- In December the Downtown Reno Partnership strengthened its relationship with Health Plan of Nevada to assist with uninsured people who the ambassadors encounter
- The Life Change Center agreed to assist transporting people to their Peer Recovery Support Program
- We partnered with Steve Shell, CEO of Reno Behavioral Healthcare Hospital and Helen Lidholm, CEO of St. Mary’s Medical Center to develop plans for mental and physical health coverage for the homeless
- Ambassadors allied with the Washoe County Railway Authority to learn about patrolling railroad tracks to keep people safe
- Two weeks after completed Narcan training from The Life Change Center, an ambassador used the opioid-reversal drug to save a life
- Two ambassadors worked with Reno Police to distribute toys to children in the motels
Before and after
- Ambassadors developed a relationship with Health Plan of Nevada who provides wraparound services, including housing for those with Medicaid.
- Created monthly meetings with City of Reno Code Enforcement to have a consistent and up-to-date strategy for maintaining streets.
- Created partnership with Reno Police Department’s downtown bike team that will allow the DRP to share information on problem individuals.
- Met with Judge Riggs from Community Court about working with the ambassadors to help get individuals to necessary resources through her new program.
- Toured REMSA (ambulance) and their dispatch center.
- Met with Fire Chief David Cochran and will present to the Captains next month.
Before and after
Questions, comments, suggestions, to request assistance or to alert the ambassadors to an issue in downtown, please call:
Our ambassadors have received training from Streetplus for their day-to-day work, but also received presentations and training from local groups and law enforcement to help them provide better services to the community. Here’s a sample:
- Ride along training with Reno Police Department
- Tour of services by Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission
- Tour of services with Volunteers of America at the Community Assistance Center
- Tour of services with the VOA Resource Center
- Tour of services with the Community Health Alliance
- Tour of services with ReStart Program
- Tourism presentation by Reno-Sparks Visitor and Convention Authority
- Received presentation by Veterans Resource Center
- Received presentation by City of Reno Code Enforcement Department
- Received crisis intervention training from the Reno Police Department and Mobile Outreach Safety Team
- Received training to work with people with mental illness by RPD
- The Life Change Center trained the ambassadors how to use Narcan, the nasal spray meant to reverse opioid overdoses
- HOPES trained ambassadors on resources at their clinic and also offered their services for needle pick-up and disposal