MANKATO — New grant funding will address scarce transportation options for clients at two Mankato nonprofits.
Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, a Twin Cities organization, made $10,000 available for Uber or Lyft rides to each of six total organizations in Mankato, Rochester, St. Cloud and Moorhead. Mankato’s Committee Against Domestic Abuse and Partners for Affordable Housing were among the recipients for the 2018 money.
Ed Murphy, executive director at Open Your Heart, estimated the $10,000 amounts to about 520 rides throughout the year.
Knowing how big of a barrier lack of transportation is to homeless populations, he said the funding is a new approach to filling in these gaps in Greater Minnesota communities.
“For so long this has been a chronic situation, a lack of transportation and access in times they need it,” he said.
The funding would allow the nonprofit’s clients to work around the roadblocks they’d face trying to sign up for the apps. Uber and Lyft require a smartphone and bank account to book cars, assets a person going through crisis or homelessness may not have.
With the grant, CADA and Partners set up their own accounts and staff would arrange rides for clients when needed.
“We feed the account with money and they administer it that way,” Murphy said.
Adding Uber and Lyft as an option also gives emergency mobility to the nonprofits’ clients. Someone fleeing from a violent domestic situation or a broken-down car keeping someone from a job they desperately need are among scenarios where a ride could be needed fast and a bus route wouldn’t suffice.
Jason Mack, executive director at CADA, said he’s excited about the possibilities the funding will open up.
“The biggest thing for us is it offers some flexibility in providing transportation,” he said. “We know sometimes public transportation can be hard in our service area.”
It’s so difficult that it’s not unusual for the nonprofits to provide clients with rides, raising cost and liability concerns. The funding would free up this time and resource commitment, said Jen Theneman, Partners For Affordable Housing executive director.
“I really see it as a win/win,” she said. “It’ll save time and money for our clients and do the same for us.”
Funding beyond 2018 hasn’t yet been decided. The usage will be analyzed this year to see whether it’s truly meeting the need.
The hope is by making transportation easier for people experiencing homelessness and crises, they’re better able to find stable work and housing, Murphy said. With the ride services expanding into more communities, the four communities will provide needed insight into whether the concept could work in other places without robust mass transit systems.
“We know from talking to Uber and Lyft, eventually they’ll be all over Minnesota,” Murphy said. “We want to do a demonstration to see how it’ll work out in communities that have them.”