Donated Bikes Pave the Way to Jobs in Tucson

Cars, bikes and buses – oh my! Transportation is a common challenge for newly-arrived refugees, but you might find some inspiration from Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Tucson (LSS-SW) and their strategy for using donated bikes to help clients get to work.

LSS-SW provides 1-2 bicycles per client household with employable adults, thanks to partnerships with Wheels for Kids and local Boy Scout drives. Both partnering organizations have provided donated, refurbished adult and child bikes.

“We’ve seen clients who are able to work that might not have otherwise been able to.” Since several of Tucson’s bus lines have limited hours of operation, “many of our clients working at hotels have to find another way to get home,” says Kyle Dignoti, LSS-SW Resource and Pre-arrival Coordinator. “Having the opportunity to use a bike has really impacted their mobility.”

Bikes are never given to clients without appropriate safety equipment, including a helmet, rope lock, and brake lights. Safety information is reviewed one-on- one with each recipient, and bicycle safety classes are available through Pima County.

Once a client has a bike, maintenance can be a challenge, but BICAS (Bicycle Inter Community Art and Salvage) in Tucson helps overcome that hurdle by training clients how to fix their bicycles. Clients are able to keep their bikes running and know how to perform basic fixes on their own.

If you have a car or bike donation program in place, we’d love to hear about at it at information@higheradvantage.org. Haven’t found a community partner to help develop these resources yet? Start by googling terms like “donated bikes” or “bike classes” and see who is in your area – you might be surprised how easy it is to find great local partners!

 

 

Tackling the Transportation Barrier

Transportation is one of the most significant barriers that refugees face in obtaining initial employment and advancing in their careers.

Tackling this barrier requires a multi-faceted strategy:

1.)  Incorporate community navigation into job readiness training

Photo by Daniel Wilkinson

Being able to navigate one’s community is important. There’s nothing more isolating and paralyzing than not having the ability to venture beyond your own home.

Helping clients develop a mental map of their community and ensuring that they are able to use the public transportation system should be a key learning objective integrated into Job Readiness curriculums.

2.) Ensure that employment opportunities are easily accessible to clients

Photo by Daniel Wilkinson

This is easier said than done, but very important. In order to set clients up for success resettlement, programs must consider likely employment possibilities when finding an apartment for refugee families. Employment teams and R&P teams should be in constant communication about preferred neighborhoods that would be most conducive to accessing employment opportunities.

Sometimes due to financial constraints, limited housing, or the preferences of refugee communities themselves, you may not be able to place new families in the most ideal locations for employment opportunities. In these cases, it’s up to you to put in the additional effort to identify employers that will be easy for clients to reach.

While it’s easy to stick with your go-to employers, putting in the work to find employers that are convenient to different neighborhoods will help you diversify your employer network and create better employment situations for your clients.

3.) Think outside the box

Photo by Daniel Wilkinson

Every situation is different, and the reality is that you often have to make less-than-ideal employment opportunities work. For example, in New Orleans, most of Catholic Charities’ clients prefer to live in an area of the city that is not particularly convenient to employment opportunities, resulting in long commutes on multiple bus routes.

Catholic Charities has been able to minimize the impact of this challenge by purchasing affordable bicycles for their employment clients from another local non-profit which teaches at-risk youth bike repair skills. The clients then are able to do part of their commute by bike which can cut their commute time in half or make it possible to take just one bus instead of two.

In addition to facilitating bicycle access, consider other creative alternatives such as car pool solutions, ride share services or employer-sponsored transportation.

4.) Recognize that transportation is connected to career advancement.

For those clients with the desire and ability, make sure that your agency provides resources (in their language if possible) for obtaining driver’s licenses. Also consider asking volunteers to help clients prepare and practice for driver’s license tests.

What transportation solutions have you found work best for your clients? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org or by filling out this poll:

How do most of your clients get to work?

 

Driving in the United States: A Resource from the Refugee Center Online

Every state across the US requires you to get a driver’s license if you want to get behind the wheel of a car.

It is not uncommon for Americans to drive more than an hour each way to work, and 77 percent of Americans drive alone to their jobs, while an additional 11 percent carpool.

Driving may be a mode of transportation to work for some of your clients.  Thus, educating refugees about the local licensing process is very important and should be included in Cultural Orientation and Job Readiness Courses.

Clients need to know and understand the licensing rules, before beginning the process to legally drive. To help clients understand the intricacies of driving in America, The Refugee Center Online has put together How to Get a Driver’s License: Translated Driver’s Handbooks in over 20 languages.

In the United States, the issuance of licenses is the authority of individual states (including Washington, D.C. and all territories). Drivers are normally required to obtain a license from their state of residence, and all states recognize each other’s licenses for temporary visitors.

Any questions about driving should be directed to state DMV offices or local police.  If you have any additional resources you would like to share please contact us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Don’t forget to buckle up!