ORLANDO, Florida — In downtown Orlando, the hustle and bustle is non-stop.

  • Ambassadors help connect homeless with local resources
  • They've helped with 6,400 panhandling cases -- 150 aggressive ones
  • Pilot program costing businesses $725,000 annually for 2 years

For years, it’s been a common sight to see people panhandling. But in recent months, people working for the Downtown Ambassadors Program have been helping connect the homeless with local resources.

Local business owners tell us they are already seeing the positive change.

“I think that I have noticed a really big difference. I walk a few blocks in and out to work every day. And I definitely see less panhandling on the street. It’s not 100 percent gone, but I would say there is definitely less,” said Monica McCown, Executive Chef of Artisan’s Table.

McCown is also one of the managing partners at Artisan’s Table, and said the ambassadors are a regular sight in the downtown area.

“We see the ambassadors all the time. They come in and we give them free drinks all the time. We see them pretty frequently,” McCown said.

The program launched in August and in just the first two months, they’ve provided roughly 600 safety escorts, spotted 35 suspicious incidents, and helped 7,000 people find locations downtown.

On top of this, they’ve helped with 6,400 panhandling cases — 150 of those considered to be aggressive panhandling.

“The situation is improving — that is anecdotal. We don’t yet have enough of a sample to trend any real numbers on panhandling,” said Thomas Chatmon Jr., Downtown Development Board Executive Director

Any improvement is positive, especially because the pilot program is costing downtown businesses $725,000 dollars annually for two years. McCown so far feels it’s well worth it.

“If people feel more comfortable being downtown, they are going to come to my business more than they do now. So that is something that is really important as a whole, to be very attractive to everybody,” McCown said.

To contact an ambassador or request service, call or text 407-902-4374.

For more information about the Downtown Ambassador Program, please contact Michael Mitchell, Ambassador Operations Manager, at mmitchell@blockbyblock.com.