March 16, 2015

Driving Brings Freedom and Opportunity to Young Parents

Posted in Events, Reach Up tagged , , , , , , , at 2:14 pm by Lund

Imagine if your child was in part time child care from 11am to 2pm every day and it took you an hour to get there on the bus from your home. Then imagine you have to take a different bus another 30 minutes to get to your job placement. You could then only work for a maximum of 2 hours before having to get back on the bus to go and pick up your child. But this only works if you can arrange your timing to exactly fit the bus schedule. Now imagine doing all this in February temperatures well below freezing in a bus system that rarely runs on time.

Or imagine getting a call at work that your child is sick and having to wait 25 minutes for the bus to take you 40 minutes to their daycare to pick them up. Imagine then having to take another bus, with your sick child, to the doctor, and then another bus to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription and yet another one to get home.

Relying on public transport as a young mother on Reach Up in Vermont is hard and unsustainable for long term success. As Lund Reach Up Case Manager, Jamaica White, points out, “Vermont is one of those places where having a car is an essential thing. It really is a lifeline. If you don’t have one, it can really be a struggle.”

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There are many reasons why Reach Up clients and other women that Lund works with don’t have access to a car.

  1. Money – Owning a car is expensive. Reach Up can give limited help towards specific costs for participants who already have a car but ongoing maintenance, insurance and gas all are very hard to pay for when on a very low income.
  2. Having a license –There are costs associated with getting a permit and a license, though Reach Up can help with some of these. But you have to take the test which can be hard for women struggling with anxiety or who have a learning disability or who have taken the test several times without passing and have simply become discouraged. Then you have access to Driver’s Education or someone to drive with you to practice. Then you need a legal car in good working order to take the test in.   There are a lot of points in this process at which someone could get stuck.   Lund Reach Up Case Manager, Siobhan Long, says, “I have had people who have done Driver’s Education and then got stuck because they didn’t have a car to take the test. Lots of people are stuck in that place.”
  3. Fines – Many people have fines but simply cannot pay them while living on a limited income through Reach Up. They just don’t have the money available even to participate in payment plans through the Judicial Bureau. When you have to drive to keep your job and bring your child to daycare, you might have to keep driving despite having fines or perhaps even despite not having a license. “You can quickly dig yourself into a hole,” says Siobhan. “And the fines just pile up.”

It is to address this last point that the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office in collaboration with the DMV , the judicial bureau and the Agency of Transportation to hold a Driver Restoration Day on March 20th from 8am to 4:30pm at the Chittenden County Superior Court at 32 Cherry Street in Burlington. The purpose of the program is to help people to become restoration ready by allowing them to settle all their delinquent tickets for $20.   This will help to make sure that all drivers on the road are fully licensed and fully insured.

There are certain very specific eligibility criteria for this program:

  • Delinquent tickets can only be from Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille and Washington counties and must be more than 75 days past due but not yet forwarded to a collection agency.
  • Participants must call 802-863-2865 before coming to the courthouse to provide their names, date of birth, license number, ticket numbers, address and phone number.
  • Cash will not be accepted only credit cards, money orders and bank checks.
  • There are no appointments so come early and expect a long wait.

Click here for more information and phone numbers for assistance

For the people who are eligible for this program and can settle their debts, it will have an important impact on their lives. “Having a license gives you hope,” says Siobhan. “It means a lot to people. Whether you have a car or not, it gives you freedom. It gives you extra opportunity.”

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