Imagine waking up at 3 a.m. every day to get to work. This is a reality for many of the clients at H.M. Life Opportunity Services in Akron who have recently escaped homelessness and have no individual method of transportation.
To get to work, these clients often get on the public bus at 4 a.m. in order to get to their jobs by 7. The same process is repeated at the end of the day, and an eight-hour work day quickly stretches into 12 or more hours away from home, especially for mothers of young children in day care.
“We take for granted how easy it is to jump in our car and drive to work,” said Melissa Massey-Flinn, program director at H.M. Life. In addition, she said, relying on unpredictable public transportation means clients often risk being fired for arriving late to work.
Now, with the help of a grant from the Women’s Endowment Fund, all of that is changing. This year, WEF gave $14,000 to H.M. Life to start the Mobile Moms program, which provides homeless, single parents with their own car so they can expand their employment opportunities or go back to school for a degree. By providing women with better access to jobs, the program focuses on one of the Women’s Endowment Fund’s key funding priorities – economic empowerment for women.
“Mobile Moms allows women to find a job or a school that’s not on the bus line – one they wouldn’t even be able to apply for otherwise,” Massey-Flinn said.
To qualify for the program, applicants have to be working or in school at least 20 hours each week. They also must have a valid driver’s license and proper insurance; turn in two professional letters of recommendation; and provide a budget showing they can afford to pay for gas and other expenses.
“They really have to do a lot of leg work,” Massey-Flinn said.
Once they do the work, though, the reward is exponential. Amanda Talick found this out first hand in September when she became the first mom to receive a car through the Mobile Moms program. Amanda’s 1997 Mercury Sable was purchased with the help of WEF’s grant, and her life hasn’t been the same since.
“Before (getting the car), I had to leave at 4 a.m. with my four children to catch a bus and get myself and them to school,” she said. “Now it’s so much easier in the morning for us to be able to have breakfast together and get in the car instead of having to wake up extra-early. It immensely changes your whole priority.”
Amanda goes to school at Brown Mackie College and said that prior to getting the car, she had to take three buses to get to school every day. Now that she has the car, she will be able to take more classes and graduate early with a degree in medical billing and coding. In addition, her 12-year-old son can now play football and get to practice.
“(Having the car) has made my son so happy,” Amanda said. “Now that I have a car, I can get my kids where they need to go instead of saying, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that – there’s not a bus route there.’”