Open Mic

Welcome to Open Mic

A Members Only Forum for Ideas, Comments

This is an open blog page with no structure or preconceived plan. It is whatever you make of it. Feel free to post open questions to your peers, ideas for programs or comments on challenges you face.
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Sharing Best Practices in the Travelers Aid Family

SenioRide Serves 1,000s Each Month in San Diego

Airport Sector

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.

Do you have similar program? Share your insights:

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Sharing Best Practices in the Travelers Aid Family

From Band-Aids to Breast Pumps

Airport Sector

Travelers Aid at Chicago O’Hare International Airport has been accommodating nursing mothers for the last 18 months. The agency invites nursing mothers to use its staff offices and it also has a breast pump available.

Travelers Aid also provides a variety of other items that a young family may need, especially if stranded by a flight delay. Diapers of all sizes, including for adults, are available. Supplies also include pacifiers and travel-size packets of all varieties of baby formula.

In July 2015, Travelers Aid provided space to 60 nursing mothers – an all-time monthly record. The staff has provided private space for up to 3 nursing mothers at one time.

The staff routinely logs passengers’ complaints and suggestions and tally these items into a monthly Top 5 list of requested, but unavailable, amenities. A nursing room has consistently been on this Top 5 list, according to Travelers Aid Senior Manager Carol King.

After seeing the consistent request, King said her group began making its facilities available. At one point, she said, the airport on its website directed nursing mothers to the Travelers Aid facilities.

Travelers Aid uses this monthly Top 5 listing to advocate to the city’s Department of Aviation for better passenger services. Travelers Aid Manager John Ishu said their volunteers also encouraged the nursing mothers to also contact aviation officials to request better facilities.

The airport responded this summer by providing a nursing room in Terminal 3 with plans to add additional rooms throughout the airport.

There is still demand for the Travelers Aid facilities since the airport’s room can only handle one mother at a time, King explained. The Travelers Aid space in Terminal 2 is centrally located among the domestic concourses – and near the new airport nursing room to provide assistance when the airport space is busy.

Mothers were reluctant to use the family or companion restrooms since these spaces lacked a place to sit or an electrical outlet for electric breast pumps.

Travelers Aid provides a breast pump to those mothers unexpectedly stranded at the airport. Since another mother cannot use the pump, the staff asks for a donation to cover the cost of a new pump. Most users will reimburse the costs of the pump and take the pump with them. Travelers Aid then replaces the pump with a new one for the next user.

In addition to the nursing mother or baby needs, Travelers Aid has personal hygiene items along with contact lens solutions and lens holders. They also have eyeglass repair kits. And, yes they have bandages.

Travelers Aid is able to maintain their supplies with funds through their contract with the airport and through donations, Ishu said. To those who can afford it, volunteers will direct travelers to the donation jar.

Through the continual generosity of a volunteer and her church, Travelers Aid maintains a supply of basic clothing items in all sizes for those who lost their luggage or are unexpectedly spending the night in the airport on cots.

The Travelers Aid office area is also used as a prayer room, King said, for those passengers not wanting to exit the secure area to reach the multi-denominational chapel. A regular O’Hare traveler has donated a pray rug for use in the Travelers Aid space.

“We have had a situation where a passenger is praying in one area of our office while a mom is using another room to nurse,” King noted.

The monthly Top 5 list was an initiative of Travelers Aid to relay to airport administrators the concerns of travelers. King said the scorecard was developed as part of its monthly report to the airport. Prior to that, the staff reported passenger needs and concerns during in-person meetings with the Chicago Department of Aviation.

One consistent travelers’ request that has yet to be met by the airport is a location to receive or send money wire transfers. King noted that Travelers Aid explored providing this service, but in doing so would endanger its non-profit status.

Do you have similar program? Share your insights:

Please sign your name and list your organization.