The initiation of a volunteer transportation program was brought about with this goal in mind: transport Polk County residents to any place, at anytime and wherever the destination the individual may need to go. The Central Iowa Shelter & Services VISTA Veterans Outreach Project group factored improved quality of life rides as a major determinant in our decision making processes. By providing a volunteer transportation service to groups such as elderly persons, persons with disabilities and to low-income individuals and homeless individuals as well as veterans, there lies a sense of hope that those individuals can, too, access basic needs and participate in activities of daily living. A volunteer transportation program to the Polk County community will aim to relieve stress for hundreds, if not thousands, of Polk County residents searching for an opportunity to be self-sufficient and practice one’s independence. In thinking about the Polk County’s transportation needs and the main objective of improving quality of life for its residents, the CISS VISTA VOP group developed a strategy that aims to fill transportation gaps in the area.
The Central Iowa Shelter & Services VISTA Veterans Outreach Project group believes in starting small, then strategically building the program to further enhance its capacity. The Group understands that the plan calls for a one-call/one-click transportation program. In thinking about the idea of “one-call/one-click”, we aim to place the least amount of stress on the client as possible in order for decreased burden in attaining a ride; thereby, the client only having to make one (1) call to access transportation services. Therefore, the Group plans to collaborate with United Way 2-1-1/Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) 5-1-1 in the efforts of connecting people with transportation services. Iowa DOT 5-1-1 would serve as the primary call center for our clients, as well as for the transportation program. A representative at 5-1-1 would then refer and dispatch calls to Central Iowa Shelter & Services for individuals in the qualifying statuses: (1) low-income, (2) persons with disabilities, (3) elderly personas and (4) veterans. Information would be taken by the dispatcher identifying the individuals per qualifying status. Various forms will be used throughout the process flow to document the following: name of client, qualifying status, volunteer availability, services offered, start and end destination, start and end mileage, etc.
The initial phases of directly involving the community in the volunteer transportation program would require the Group to recruit a strong volunteer base of fifty (50) Polk County residents who are dedicated in enriching their communities by giving their time to offer a ride for someone in need. In later phases, the Group aims to incorporate social capital within the Polk County community. Social capital involves building a horizontal network of residents within their own residential communities. The TRIP Model will help the Group utilize the concept of reaching out to members of their own communities in attaining a ride. By way of clients recruiting their own volunteer drivers, entire communities can become invested in the idea of volunteering their time and resources for community members within their own backyard. The Group plans to service all major cities within the Polk County, but not limited to: Des Moines, West Des Moines, Clive, Urbandale, Ankeny, Altoona, Johnston and Grimes. The Group plans to offer to following services for transportation destinations: grocery stores, medical appointments, and jobs, trips to the Des Moines International Airport/Greyhound and other bus services, and the recreational activities such as visiting friends, parks, shopping centers and libraries. The Group plans to implement a reimbursement model with a monetary value per mile by documenting the odometer reading from the start of the trip to the finished destination of the trip. In the initial phases, the hours of operation will vastly depend on the volunteer drivers’ availability. In later phases with the incorporation of the TRIP Model, the hours of operation would most likely shift to 24 hours a day/7 days a week, as the client would have the ability to recruit his or her own volunteer driver at any time of the day or night.