Empowering social service organizations with transportation options
By Joan Pasiuk, Bicycling and Walking Program Director
Over and over TLC/BWTC has heard from social service organizations that among all the issues facing the people they serve, transportation is a complex thicket: Opportunity St. Paul, a project of Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties that aims to reduce poverty in the city using a community-engagement approach, underscores both the need and the complexity. Molly Seaver, Opportunity St. Paul Coordinator, confirms, "In our extensive community conversations, transportation as a facet of poverty was frequently raised. Our 2013 action plan will not be tackling this specific barrier because of its complex components that are beyond our current project. We are anxious for more transportation resources to unveil, supporting our low-income neighbors in getting ahead."
Clearly, it's important. For most families, transportation is the second largest household expense (after housing), and it puts an even larger burden on low-income families. Transit, walking, bicycling, and car sharing may provide more trip possibilities and critical financial savings than people realize.
And yet many staff members unfortunately do not have the information they need to help the people they serve understand essential transportation options or manage transportation choices.
Recognizing this information gap, TLC, through the BWTC program, is developing train-the-trainer materials to build capacity of social service organizations in transportation matters-with emphasis on the transportation needs and barriers of low-income and economically challenged populations. Our primary partner in the development process is Neighborhood House. Located on the west side of St. Paul, Neighborhood House has been working since 1897 to help people, families, and organizations develop the skills, knowledge, and confidence to thrive in diverse communities. They provide the tools needed to move from "survive to thrive," working to help break the cycle of poverty. "The participants in our programs are committed to thriving in circumstances often with much challenge and hardship. Our staff needs to be able to put transportation options more clearly in focus. We are very excited about the capacity this transportation literacy work will bring to our staff, and then to our participants," said Joan McDonough-Schlecht, Director of Basic Needs, Neighborhood House.
To make this developmental work possible, TLC received a Minnesota GreenCorps (a program of AmeriCorps) member, who will be working with us over the next year. Bridgette Kelly is in the process of forming a transportation literacy advisory group, drafting surveys, building relationships with Neighborhood House staff, and researching transportation resources. TLC is excited to be in the process of this important work - empowering organizations to better serve their clients' transportation needs.
The Wellstone Center of Neighborhood House is located in the District del Sol in St. Paul, an area with a rich culture, transit access, and many walkable and bikeable destinations.
Photo courtesy districtdelsol.com.