Photo: Graham Newhall

Carlos is part of the Downtown Improvement District (DID) safety team. “We’re funded by local businesses, to make this part of the city look better, and to keep it safe.”

The DID is one of 34 city improvement groups run by a company called Block By Block, based in Nashville, Tennessee. It began in Providence in 2005, and Carlos has been working for them part time for the last two years.

“We make sure that people get to where they need to go. We’re almost like tourist informants a lot of the time. We’re not allowed to carry any weapons, we just carry a radio. If there’s anyone on the sidewalk or street that may be over-intoxicated, we ask if they want rescuing, we keep things in order so to speak. We also write reports on what we see, maybe there’s a construction site that might not be so safe. Stuff like that.

“One lady came up to me, it turned out she hadn’t been back here for fifty years, she looked confused, and she asked me, ‘Sir, what happened to all the department stores?'”

“It came to me like a calling. I was a bank teller before I did this, but I’d also done a lot of non-profit work. I’m going to school at URI, studying sociology, and two years ago, I happened to see an ad for this job. I’ve always been into community work, being a city youth myself, and I felt inclined to be involved in that.”

In an evening when he’s not working, you might just catch Carlos on the dance floor.

“I dance salsa, two or three times a week. I did some teaching, but I decided to get away from that side of it. I went to the Black Rep a lot, and I also go to a few venues in Boston. It’s a very social activity.

“Two weeks ago, we had a salsa congress at the Biltmore Hotel. It was a big meeting of all the regulars, up in the ballroom. It’s like a night out, but done in a more upscale way. You dress up. I went by myself, you meet people. You ask politely a lady to dance with you, and that’s what you do.”

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