Interview with the DID’s Tim Hamlin

At The Providence Foundation, the relationships and partnerships with organizations, businesses and institutions in the community are integral to the success of the work that the Foundation does. The Providence Downtown Improvement District (DID) is one such partner that the Foundation has been closely aligned with since it helped form the DID in 2005. People often say how clean downtown is, but don’t realize who is doing the hard work to get it that way. In large part, it’s the DID.   

Everyone who lives, works or visits downtown Providence knows and loves the DID’s Clean & Safe Ambassadors (aka: the yellow jackets). DID Operations Manager Tim Hamlin sat down with the Foundation for the first in a series of interviews aimed at highlighting the impressive work are partners do in the community.

Tim Hamlin and some of the Clean and Safe Ambassadors

Tim Hamlin and some of the Clean and Safe Ambassadors

For those who many not know, can you describe who the DID ambassadors are and what they do in the neighborhood?
It may seem like an army, but our team is made up of 17 ambassadors. Starting at 6am every day, they keep the public spaces, curb cuts and crosswalks within the district litter free all year long, and snow free during the winter. They also remove graffiti, empty trash barrels throughout the district, and generally make downtown look new each morning before the city wakes up. Ambassadors also check in on the homeless population to see if anyone needs assistance or special services, and do general hospitality for the neighborhood.

The DID also provides a link between the neighborhood and the city. If we notice street lights out, stop signs damaged or parking meters knocked down, we get in touch with the city to report the damage and see that it gets fixed.

What has been the biggest challenge in downtown Providence since you began working for the DID?
Removing graffiti and tags from different spots in the neighborhood. It is a lot of work, especially on big pieces, to remove. It’s also feels hard to keep up, as it seems like each morning new tags show up in a new place. 

DID ambassador cleaning graffiti

DID ambassador cleaning graffiti

What is one task DID ambassadors do that people benefit from, but don’t know is being done?
Many people don’t realize that the DID shovels snow, since it’s mostly done when people have days off or come into work late because of the weather. By the time most people come into the neighborhood, downtown is clear, thanks to the DID, not the city. In fact, many people see ambassadors in the neighborhood and assume they are city employees or volunteer citizens.

How do the relationships with organizations and businesses help the success of the DID?
Fostering relationships with businesses keeps the lines of communication open between our team and those businesses. When a good relationship is established, people are comfortable asking for help, as well as offering it. Our relationship with the police in particular makes both of our jobs so much easier. 

An ambassador watering flowers planted each spring throughout the neighborhood.

An ambassador watering flowers planted each spring throughout the neighborhood.

Why is the DID’s work crucial to the success of downtown Providence?
People feel safer in a city when that city is clean and that is our top priority. However, a huge part of the job is also hospitality. Providence has become much more of a tourist destination over the past few years, and the city is often full with people looking at maps and finding their way around. When there are friendly people in uniforms with a smile on their face, people feel comfortable approaching and asking for help. In fact, many ambassadors offer help directly to people looking confused. They offer anything from directions to a business to a restaurant recommendation every day. 

Fun fact about yourself?
I collect art! I mostly focus on pieces made by printmakers and I try to buy directly from the artist whenever I can. My collection includes many local artists, but my favorite is Jermaine Rogers based in Houston. 


Anything else you’d like to add?
Most of the ambassadors have been doing this job for many years because they genuinely like helping people and take pride in making the city look and feel cleaner and safer.

If you’re ever in the neighborhood and need help or have a question about downtown or the outskirts, look for a guy in yellow and they’ll be happy to help.

To learn more about the DID, visit their website or ask one of the ambassadors the next time you’re downtown!

Kristin Crane