BY ZOE JUMPER
As I reflect on the families we partner with, transportation is a barrier that does not have a lot of solutions in our community. Colorado Springs is a very spread-out city, and it can be extremely challenging to meet even the most basic needs if you do not have a car.
Transportation can directly relate to a family’s ability to get food consistently. They may receive food benefits but live in a food desert, do not live near a bus stop, and do not have a reliable car to get to the store to purchase groceries. Food is one of the most basic needs; without transportation, it can be a struggle to keep food in the house consistently.
Families who do not have a car have shared they get nervous sending their kids to school. Although the school bus picks the kids up and drops them off, parents worry about the day they get a call that their kid is sick and needs to be picked up in the middle of the day. If this were to happen, they would be in an incredibly challenging spot. They must walk the distance to pick up their kid, try to get a ride from a friend, or pay for a ride from Uber or Lyft. None of these options are easy or ideal, costing them time, money, or possibly their job if they have inflexible work hours or positions.
These are issues for those of us with reliable personal vehicles that may not be at the forefront of our minds. From my experience, I know these are unique situations the families I partner with brought to my attention that I would not have seen before hearing their stories. Life becomes intricately more complicated when you are unable to get food or pick up your child when they need you because you do not have a car.
Families we partner with have shared they might spend three or more hours riding the bus just to get from one destination to another. This includes walking from their home to a bus stop, waiting for the bus, riding the first bus only to get to another stop where they may need to transfer to another bus to get to their destination. This is no small task. Then, they are asked to do this in the heat or the snow with their infants, toddlers, and school-aged kids. If they take the bus to go to the grocery, they need to carry their groceries with their children. I cannot say I know what this is like; however, hearing them share their experience makes it clear how difficult it can be to live without a car in Colorado Springs.
I am grateful when donors give their old cars to Catholic Charities when they are looking to buy a new car. These donated cars make a huge difference in the lives of families. I have seen parents get a driver’s license and a vehicle for the first time, opening opportunities they could not have imagined. Additionally, I am privileged to offer home visitation services to families when they do not have transportation to get to our office. I am grateful to see many service providers offering home visitation and medical care rides, which are critical. Still, there are other areas of need unfulfilled in our community regarding transportation. Grocery shopping, clothes shopping, picking kids up unexpectedly from school, dropping kids off at childcare, and getting to work is also essential, and there is no easy way to get around if you do not have reliable transportation.
I am unsure what a clear and long-term solution is to the transportation barriers facing families we partner with. Still, I see it as a significant barrier to stability, opportunity, and growth. I am seeing more and more families without reliable and safe transportation, increasing my concern for this issue, as should our community.