The guest blog below was provided by Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. Wayne Metro supports all of Wayne County, including the city of Detroit, with more than 50 programs with over 300 employees.
For underserved populations residing in major cities around the country, a lack of safe and reliable transportation creates ongoing challenges that often keep people from gaining independence and reaching their full earning potential. Low-income families that live in Metro Detroit, know first-hand that the lack of a family vehicle can hinder self-sufficiency. While many individuals do have options to increase income by increasing hours worked, vehicle ownership is not an option due to the burden on an already limited household income.
Safe and reliable transportation can be a game-changer as it creates an immediate path to better paying jobs and increases to annual salary. In addition, instead of relying on an often unreliable public transit system, a family can also transport their children to school and from school, medical appointments, and shop for groceries on a regular basis. This is often the greatest positive impact that Vehicles for Change clients report – the increase in quality and quantity of time together as a family.
According to local news reports, 25 percent of Detroit households do not own a vehicle and nearly 62 percent of people that do hold jobs are employed outside of City limits. Detroit residents who are employed outside City limits report their average daily commute time is 40 minutes.
For the past three years, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency (Wayne Metro) has been partnering with Vehicles for Change Inc. (VFC), which is a Baltimore-based nonprofit that empowers struggling families by providing them with low-cost, donated vehicles. Through this partnership, families that qualify for the program are learning how to better manage their finances, and achieve personal independence through vehicle ownership and financial coaching. VFC offers a 12-month credit-builder loan to clients who could never qualify for a loan due to their income level, and credit history without the assistance of the program. A major component of the program is that VFC repairs donated vehicles, and all vehicles carry a six-month, 6,000-mile warranty. The program also creates affordable monthly payments that range from $85-$95, and the client must make their own payments.
In an effort to ensure that the client will be able to handle the responsibility of owning and maintaining a vehicle, they are required to go through an orientation process and assessment, as well as attend workshops. The client must also understand the importance of the Transfer of Title process. Before the title is transferred, the client is educated on the importance of financial budgeting, maintaining good credit, and how to save money. After the title is transferred, the client will work directly with a dedicated Financial Coach once a month. For future transportation expenses such as oil changes, gas, insurance, vehicle registration, clients are required to make a monthly deposit into a saving account.
Once the client pays off the loan, which is referred to a graduation, the individual completes an exit survey. For ongoing support, clients have the opportunity to work with Wayne Metro Financial Empowerment Service programs to further their savings and credit building behaviors. Vehicles For Change has made a deep impact within the lives of people that once thought owning a vehicle would be impossible, due to their economic status. Wayne Metro has awarded a total of 58 vehicles to clients who noted that transportation was a barrier, and the program creates the perfect opportunity to help individuals build a strong family unit, gain their independence, and contribute positively to their own communities.