By Pamela Moore, Program Director
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YWCA Saint Paul is one of four incredible Transportation Options program partners collaborating with TLC to address transportation as a basic need. Earlier this year Transportation Options program director Pam Moore sat down with YWCA staff Loriane McCarty, Jaime Stampley, and Gala Ingram to discuss the impacts of this unique program and how it intersects with their work empowering families to stabilize their lives and build new skills.
TLC: Tell us about your work at YWCA Saint Paul Housing and Supportive Services. Who do you serve?
YWCA: We serve families who are coming out of homelessness—roughly 300 participants a year. Some are coming from domestic violence shelters. Some may be going through a transition.
TLC: How has TLC’s Transportation Options program helped to advance your mission?
YWCA: The agency’s mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. We do that by giving families access to housing and to other things that, as oppressed groups, they haven’t had. Access to transportation is really a justice issue. Through this program we’ve been able to connect families with that access. Collaboration with Transportation Options has helped families eliminate barriers and get to employment and child care. It has empowered them to get a job or get out in the community, get groceries. Over 90 percent of our families are fleeing domestic violence or have experienced family violence during their lifetimes. Gaining skills of self-sufficiency is really important for them. Being able to be independent, and having support while they are learning how to do that, has been vital.
TLC: During our workshop, you experienced a variety of transportation options firsthand. How did that inform your work?
YWCA: Learning that those forms of transportation were available and not even that hard to access—and then sharing the resources and knowledge with our participants—was really helpful. Also, staff who weren’t from the community got out to see the community that we work in. Understanding how much time it takes to get from point A to point B and how much planning that involves meant they had to be more realistic in the expectations that they set for participants and the help they needed. If I know how to do it and I’ve actually done it before, it makes me more comfortable to help a participant walk through that as well.
TLC: What stood out about the participants you referred to us?
YWCA: We looked at who was experiencing transportation as a major barrier and needed more support. Participants who got a new job and had to figure out how to get to and from work while getting their child to child care is an example. Motivation definitely was a factor.
TLC: What impact has Transportation Options made with the people you serve?
YWCA: It’s made a significant impact. We had a lot of families who were participating in the program that were really isolated and depended on staff to meet all their needs. We saw a huge increase in confidence. They learned that they could rely on themselves and experience that self-sufficiency. It improved their problem-solving skills and the ability to plan. Another awesome, wonderful benefit of the program has been that it has really helped our families who have struggled with mental health issues overcome depression and anxiety in lots of different ways. The families who are paying more than 50 percent of their income toward their rent have a hard time affording a bus card or gear so it’s really helped them in that area as well. One participant we referred, for example, initially didn’t want to take the bus because she didn’t have proper winter clothing. The program really helped open her eyes and stretch her dollars. She was able to pay her rent and stay in her stable housing without sacrificing for a winter coat or winter boots.
TLC: How can you build on the outcomes and impact you’ve mentioned and make them sustainable over time?
YWCA: In our intake questionnaire we now ask: “What type of transportation do you use?” That gets the conversation going and we can offer different options. Before I don’t think staff were really in a position to do that or very confident to do that. Now we’re thinking of creative ways to get families out, get them moving, get them to access community resources without transportation being a barrier. Also, in the transitional housing program, we have life skills programming and a budgeting series. Within that we are thinking about having a specific workshop around transportation. Helping families continue to examine their choices and look at some other transportation options is really important.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.