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Sharing Best Practices in the Travelers Aid Family
SenioRide Serves 1,000s Each Month in San Diego
SenioRide, a 6-year-old program of Travelers Aid Society of San Diego, provides local transportation to 1,000 low-income senior citizens in San Diego County.
Designed to help seniors maintain an independent lifestyle, the program offers multiple transportation options to those over 60. The options include monthly Metropolitan Transit System bus passes, door-to-door services via a taxi, MTS Access wheelchair lift-equipped buses or volunteer drivers.
Travelers Aid does not provide any rides, but organizes and facilitates the service.
More than 3,000 rides are provided each month with 300 to 400 individuals using the service on a regular basis. While there are limits on the number of rides that can be provided by volunteer drivers and fee limitations on the cab trips, a client can use the service daily through a combination of ride options, including the bus pass.
The only restriction on the program is that the service will not provide transportation to the region’s casinos. Doctor appointments, shopping, and visits to friends and family are managed through the program.
The program has funding for 50 monthly senior bus passes and provides vouchers for the door-to-door options. In all cases, the program covers the entire cost of the senior’s ride. Clients can arrange for a friend to provide a ride and that volunteer driver is then compensated by the program via a $10-15 stipend.
The program also covers the transportation costs if a client needs a companion to travel with them.
Meeting a Need Through its long work with the homeless and low-income residents of San Diego, Travelers Aid was aware of the lack of transportation options for car-less seniors. As the program got started, Travelers Aid quickly discovered that it underestimated the number of seniors who lacked transportation options.
If the agency had to do it over again, it would have held focus groups with seniors to get a better handle on their specific transportation needs.
In the first 2 years, funds were not available for the monthly bus passes so the clients were older, less mobile. With the addition of the bus passes, the demographics changed to include more seniors who were more independent, mobile and with fewer health issues.
This low-income segment of the community continues to grow as the population ages. The high cost of living, especially housing, stresses many household budgets qualifying them for the service.
Funding The SenioRide program has a current budget of $150,000. Its primary funding source has been a grant provided by the San Diego Association of Governments. The group administers a two-year grant program for senior projects that is funded by the 0.5% county sales tax for transportation and transit projects with which Travelers Aid San Diego has been awarded 4 times. Currently, funds from two charitable foundations that focus on senior citizens provide the remaining third of the budget.
Travelers Aid has been approved for a fiscal 2016-17 grant funded by the sales tax. Each time Travelers Aid has applied for this county grant, it has been successful in obtaining 100% of its funding requests.
At times, the funding for the bus passes has not met the monthly demand and a lottery has been established to allocate the 50 monthly passes. In addition, the fee limitation ($40) for the taxi cabs trips has caused problems for some in reaching the suburban Veteran Administration medical facility.
Staffing One case worker, Kelly Kephart, manages the program coordinating the service requests and new applications. Kephart now spends about 65-70% of her time on the program. Her salary is covered by the grant.
Kathleen S. Baldwin, president, Travelers Aid San Diego, spends about 20% of her time on monthly paperwork required by the county grant. The agency must submit detailed paper forms to be reimbursed for the services provided.
And, every two years, the agency’s development director, Marcy Roke, will spend 10-15% of her time on the next grant application.
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