Awakened by an ‘ambassador’; Delray’s diplomatic touch for homeless


Don’t think of it as the Delray Beach Bum Patrol.

That sounds a little too mean. A more noble name is required to describe the effort of the city’s Downtown Development Authority in hiring security guards to scour the area every morning to get the sleeping homeless people to make themselves invisible.

Skedaddling the homeless requires a program name that suggests more compassion.

And Delray Beach hasn’t disappointed in that department.

It’s called “The Ambassador Program.” For the past four months, this pilot program about to expire in Delray Beach 

has employed yellow-shirted security guards — um, er, I mean “ambassadors” — to comb the downtown streets starting at 6 a.m. to wake up the homeless and get them to scoot.

RELATED: Delray program that wakes, clears homeless at 6 a.m. ends… now what?

The next step, I guess, will be to come up with a different name for the homeless.

I’m partial to “chronic outdoorsmen”, or maybe “the trans-residential.”

And perhaps the ambassadors can be part of something called the The CRUEL (Citizen Relocation Unit for Extreme Loungers) Squad.

I know some of you English language sticklers out there might have an issue with the abuse of the word “ambassador” in this case.

"The next step, I guess, will be to come up with a different name for the homeless. I'm partial to "chronic outdoorsmen", or maybe "the trans-residential."

Ambassadors are usually associated with high-ranking representatives of a country on a special diplomatic mission in a foreign land.

For example, Callista Gingrich, the current wife of Newt Gingrich, has been nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. I would be very surprised if her ambassador duties involved getting up at dawn to shoo the homeless from the public showers installed by Pope Francis near St. Peter’s Square.

There are other kinds of ambassadors too. At Palm Beach International Airport, volunteers wearing teal sports coats are identified as “airport ambassadors” and are there to answer questions from passing travelers.

The PBI airport ambassadors will not bother you if you fall asleep in the concourse.

But language is a living thing. Maybe it’s time to start thinking of ambassadors in a new way. Like the way the state of Florida re-branded the word “unemployment” five years ago.

The state’s Unemployment Compensation Benefits Program was changed to the Reemployment Assistance Program, a move that let employers spend less on unemployment benefits while making it harder for unemployed workers to collect benefits.

Words matter.

Just ask Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon-turned head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This week, he called poverty “a state of mind.”

People who are poor are simply victims of their own lack of positive thinking.

“You take somebody that has the right mind-set, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there,” Carson said in a radio interview.

Carson, who oversees an agency that helps poor people, is not a fan of helping poor people.

“You take somebody with the wrong mind-set, you can give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom,” Carson said.

So if we extend Carson’s logic to the poorest of the poor, the homeless, what’s needed is simply a new “state of mind” for them.

And that’s what Delray Beach is giving them.

They’re not being rousted by police officers.

No, they’ve merely been paid a diplomatic sidewalk visit from an ambassador.

That ought to put them in the right state of mind.



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