Free transit helps clients

Residents looking to rebuild their lives will still be able to jump on the bus for free.

Residents looking to rebuild their lives will still be able to jump on the bus for free.

The Regional District of North Okanagan will continue to provide social agencies with bus tickets that are then passed on to clients.

“We are enthusiastic about the program,” said director Patrick Nicol.

“These people are getting back on their feet again. Transit is the first point of entry and they will use it again, and that helps the overall transit numbers.”

The program began last year and RDNO gives 250 single-zone bus tickets per month and 250 multi-zone tickets every three months.

They are then handed over to 17 non-profit agencies like the Gateway Shelter, the Vernon Women’s Transition House and the White Valley Community Resource Centre.

The North Okanagan Employment Enhancement Society provides the transit tickets to clients in its community assistance program.

“Our clients have very limited funds, often enough to pay rent but not much else,” said Lynn Belsher, NOEES executive director, in a letter to RDNO.

“Typically, they cannot afford a vehicle making transportation a big issue for them. With the ministry office located in the north end of Vernon and with most clients living either downtown or on the southern edges of town, clients are often unable to get to the ministry office for meetings or to pick up their cheque.”

The First Nations Friendship Centre gave a transit pass to a client who was pregnant, on income assistance and working two part-time jobs.

“The $625 income assistance she is receiving covers her rent only,” said Caroline Huisken, pre-natal co-ordinator.

“The jobs are located at different locations in Vernon, and thanks to the bus tickets, she was able to work both jobs and attend school.”

The program is organized by the United Way.

“In a year, close to 3,000 people used the bus to  go to work, bring groceries home or seek medical treatment,” said Linda Yule, United Way executive director.

“Public transportation is the first option for people trying to turn their lives around.”