One of the most pressing problems facing the urbanized poor is a lack of personal transportation. The fact is 40 percent of the population in Dallas lives south of the Trinity River but 90 percent of the jobs are located north. And, although Dallas has a substantial mass transit system, less than 15 percent of the jobs in the area are reachable through DART. Without personal transportation, one’s access to economic opportunity remains severely limited.
In a large, continuing study of upward mobility based at Harvard, commuting time emerged as one of the single strongest factors in determining the odds of escaping poverty. The longer an average commute in a given county, the worse the chances were of low-income families moving up the ladder.
This is why we are excited to partner with On the Road Lending. On the Road Lending is a nonprofit organization founded in 2013 that provides vehicle selection assistance and low-cost “character-based” loans to low-income individuals so they can overcome transportation barriers and avoid predatory lending. On the Road Lending works with our clients for several months to build financial capability and then arranges an affordable loan through their private-equity loan fund.
One recent recipient is Elmer LaBranch, who graduated from our WORK Program in March 2017. Elmer came to BridgeBuilders at the recommendation of the Veterans Administration after seeking their help for Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), which resulted from his service in the US Army. Elmer describes his experience at BridgeBuilders as moving from a “dark, troubled place to one of peace and joy!” On the day of his graduation, the word that he used to describe how he was feeling was, “WHOLE!”
Elmer was employed immediately following his graduation from the WORK Program, however, the lack of personal transportation remained an obstacle that he was forced to overcome every day in order to work. Thanks to On the Road Lending, Elmer is now the proud owner of a 2016 Toyota Camry! No longer does his commute rely on public transportation, taking over an hour each way. He now has more time to spend with his family and his career options are greatly expanded. This is an essential part of restoring people to God, themselves, others, and in this instance, creation.