Friday, February 10, 2017

Our Homeless Friends’ Self-Advocacy Bears Fruit

Courtesy of DART
One of the forums that MDHA facilitates is the Alliance Homeless Forum. This is a monthly forum run by and for our friends, who are experiencing homelessness, or are formerly homeless. Shavon Moore, our Continuum of Care Resource Manager helps facilitate these meetings. Already back in 2014, our friends highlighted an acute need – public transportation. In their experience, having access to public transportation to utilize medical and social services, search for employment, and navigate housing solutions was a critical need. This access was impeded by the issue of cost. Though $5 a day might not seem like much for the average reader, this is not a cost most of our friends can afford.

They researched the issue, and discovered that Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) already had well publicized programs in place, that allowed for 50% reduced fares for certain classes of people, e.g. persons with disabilities, seniors and students. They researched the issue further and found that a little-known program existed, where those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) were eligible for such a 50% reduced fare too. Perhaps since qualifying for TANF in Texas is extremely difficult, this program was not being utilized.

Shavon and our friends approached DART, and suggested that it would make more sense to convert this existing unutilized program into a program that would address their needs. DART agreed to run a pilot program, in collaboration with MDHA for the months of March-August 2016, that would enable our friends to pay a 50% reduced fare. Following this successful pilot, DART agreed to renew the program for all of 2017!

To be eligible for this program, a person must be literally homeless or actively enrolled in a program through safe haven, permanent housing, transitional housing or emergency shelter for at least ten days, and he or she must be have an active record in the MDHA’s Homeless Management Information System.

If such a person and his or her case manager identify transportation as a need, the case manager submits a request to MDHA. MDHA then verifies the person’s housing status and provides a letter of certification to the case manager. The person then submits the letter to the DART Store, and purchases a DART Reduced ID card.

The DART Reduced ID card allows persons to purchase 50% discounted passes at the DART Store, ticket vending machines and on buses. They must show the ID when presenting a DART pass to a bus operator or a train fare enforcement officer. 2-hour passes, day passes and 31 day passes are available. The MDHA Flex Fund can further pay for the ID and/or the remaining 50% of a monthly pass, if needed.

One of the most important lessons of this story is one that should be obvious, but is all too often forgotten. When it comes to discovering the needs of those experiencing homelessness, one of the most important things to do is… ask those experiencing homelessness! There is simply no substitute for true lived experience.

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