David Vasquez is Downtown Vision, Inc.’s resident power washing specialist. If there’s graffiti or grime reported by a Downtown resident, business owner or visitor, David is deployed to clean it up and make it look like new. He enjoys his work, his colleagues, and helping to make Downtown a little bit more beautiful every day.
Hailing from Southern California, David moved to Jacksonville in 2006 but was directly impacted by the Great Recession, losing his job and having to live in a car for eight months. He had been working for three different Downtown restaurants when word of a Block By Block Downtown Ambassador position reached him. David wasn’t sure exactly what DVI’s Downtown Ambassadors did, but he visited the office to apply for the position, mostly out of curiosity. As soon as he walked in, several Ambassadors recognized him, having been served by him many times in the past.
At the impromptu interview, Bill Wimmer, Program Manager for the Downtown Ambassadors, told David that he had an opening for a Safety Ambassador — someone who would be able to give directions, provide safety and umbrella escort services, keep a watchful eye, and direct individuals in need of social services to the various organizations which provide that type of assistance. Having once been homeless himself and already having a rapport with several current homeless individuals, Bill and David agreed that the position would be a good fit.
As the needs of Downtown changed, the Clean and Safe Ambassador Program grew and expanded to require a full-time, dedicated power washing specialist. David, having worked in the program since 2012, and familiar with the power washing process and equipment, volunteered to be the one to stay on top of and get ahead of the high-powered cleaning needs of Downtown. Even though it’s been over six years, David enjoys his job and hasn’t felt the time go by. “It really doesn’t feel like that long,” he says, marveling. “Maybe only two or three years.”
David also provides power washing services for JAX Chamber, as well as a few of the private businesses Downtown whose owners have been impressed with his work. In addition to his scheduled power washing services, he is the one-man response team on call when individuals report graffiti or grime to the Downtown Ambassador Clean Team. On days when call volume is low, he helps his fellow Ambassadors in their various projects, occasionally making contact with some of the homeless and transient individuals he worked with as part of the Safety Team when he started, urging them to contact Social Services Outreach Specialist Cindy Ray so she can help them find a place to stay, medical care, and job training.
David’s experience with homelessness in Downtown and subsequent personal and professional successes while working as an Ambassador, highlight an important truth: the intersection between vastly different cultures and life experiences can occur in a single individual. A tiny thread, but one that stretches far, bringing vital perspective to the oftentimes overlooked and misunderstood issue of homelessness and transience in urban centers. David is living proof that there’s life and success after homelessness; he would never claim that it is an easy transition, that simple desire is all it takes, but neither is homelessness a life sentence. With the right tools, resources, support, and hard work, David has completely altered his personal narrative and is a very much loved and respected member of the Ambassador and DVI teams.
Learn more about the Downtown Ambassador Program here.