Township hears rural transportation system needed in county

Jennifer Hammond, is taking her message on the road to show the need for a rural transportation system in Wellington County.
Hammond, as transportation program developer, has worked on the project and with various groups since last June.
Hammond is visiting local councils to get the message out. She said, “For many years transportation issues have plagu­ed the social service and health community. A variety of options has been brought forward over the course of the past two decades, yet none have seen their full potential realized.
“This can be attributed to a number of root causes including the lack of sustainable funding, the cultural climate of social services, prioritizing needs and the capacity of pro­viders to support program devel­opment.”
In 2004, Wellington County was on the verge of a new gap being created in transportation service provision as funding for the children and family transportation program through Public Health was ending. A group of community service pro­viders worked towards providing better service.
The group, Rural Well­ington Transportation, sought comments and developed a plan.
In 2007, they obtained Ontario Trillium Foundation funding to support the development of a county wide transportation program, working with existing providers to en­sure the transportation needs of residents are met in an effective and efficient way.
Last June, with the Com­munity Resource Centre as the lead agency, she was hired as the transportation program developer for 18 months to create a coordinated, volunteer program.
Hammond said, “We are seek­ing to identify ways that will not only improve the overall transportation options available to users but also maintain individual agency service de­livery.
“We are working with ser­vice providers to look at how transportation services are delivered in communities across rural Wellington, how referrals are made to orga­nizations, how volunteers are re­cruited, trained, and managed, how programs are marketed and what resources are needed to create a sustainable system.”
She said one step is to inform the community of the challenges faced by people, and how it effects their ability to be healthy, secure, active members of their community.
The community can be­come involved in the system in many ways including being knowledgeable of available ser­vices and how to obtain them, or by volunteering their time as a driver. She offered ideas about some of the challenges and potential solutions ahead.
Clients cannot find a service provider to meet their needs
The program will create a central point of referral for all transportation services within rural Wellington County. The client has only to have a single phone number, which will be widely promoted and distributed, from which their needs will be screened.
They will be directed to the service to meet their needs most appropriately.
Providers receiving referrals for which they cannot fulfill requests.
Through the creation of a central point of referral, a system of screening can be undertaken so service providers are receiving calls only from clients for whom they can ac­commodate requests. That will decrease the amount of professional and volunteer time that is spent seeking other resources for clients.
Being unable to meet the demand for service
The coordinated system will allow for the pooling of volunteer resources.
Always in need of more vol­unteer drivers to meet demands for service
A county-wide recruitment campaign can be implemented that would provide volunteers with the opportunity to know the variety of positions which are available.
Hammond said the goal of the project is to create a program that allows needs to be met without creating duplication, and that builds on the strengths of existing programs and provides ease of access.
“People do not often think of transportation as an issue, but for those without access to a vehicle it is a major issue facing them every day.”
She said there are  many positive things happening at the community level … but the demand keeps growing.
Organizations are serving different segments of the population and there is significant overlap, she said. As well, Hammond believes there is a definite need for consistency in dealing with volunteers. The idea is to create a joint recruitment drive. “One of the greatest concerns is that if people feel that services are not available … they will stop asking.”
Councillor Dan Yake asked how would the program determine who is eligible.
Hammond said each service will provide a quick screening process to determine the most appropriate agency to deal with the particular transportation need. She noted some services are free, while others have a modest fee – to ensure those who can afford it pay something.