UPDATE: SPARKodc has created a short survey designed specifically for Owensboro-Daviess County to gather critically important information about the barriers that prevent citizens from access to care.
The survey is designed to help identify gaps in services.
As any agency in Daviess County that serves children and parents knows, there are debilitating issues surrounding transportation — specifically economical transportation — for low-income residents in our area.
Rosemary Conder, Director at Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), and Ashley Evans-Smith, Project Manager of SPARKodc, can recall story after story of how transportation has affected clients.
“There are many scenarios, but not limited scenarios,” Conder said.
So when they began to work, not as a CASA project but to start Social Partners Advocating for a Resilient Kentucky Owensboro Daviess County (SPARKodc), they started identifying limitations within the community and created a contact list of agencies and individuals to brainstorm and advocate change in Owensboro.
“Collaboration is the key,” Conder said. “We have to break the cycle of poverty, abuse and neglect because all affect our community.”
Within the original contact list, Conder and Evans-Smith hoped the other agencies would spread the word through their contact lists and their clients to provide answers on a community-wide survey as a good representation of our community, Conder said.
The issue of transportation was not chosen as the frontrunner for needs for this community, but rather, “it chose us,” Conder said.
Both Conder and Evans-Smith can provide limitless examples of clients who needed to be in court, but they had no ride, no way to get to public transportation or public transportation wasn’t even an option. The same is true for therapy appointments, doctor’s appointments or any other court-required service that affects the individual.
Several agencies provide bus passes to clients and while this seems like a solution, it often isn’t, both women said.
They mentioned a woman that lived in Lamplite that would have to pay over $20 round trip to get her family to services at RiverValley using GRITS, but had to schedule 24 hours in advance.
“It depends on the time of the appointment or work, the location where the work is, the appointment is or where the individual lives,” said Evans-Smith.
They gave an example of a man who could ride the bus to work if he left his residence an hour early for the bus each day. But he could not get home because OTS stops running at 6 p.m.
And while the public transit system is a good system, they said, many still aren’t able to use it.
So when Edward Palmer, a pastor in Hardin County came to speak with First Lady Glenna Bevin, Palmer kept referring to equality for children, something he has devoted time to as well as preaching. He discussed how his community has church busses and drivers that volunteer to help with transportation in the community.
“That was the impetus for us to begin thinking about it,” Conder said. “It’s how the stars align and we are just players.”
Conder and Evans-Smith believe that if they pull the right people together, and pull local churches together, as Palmer has done, they can affect change for our community.
“We are only as good as our lowest citizen,” Conder said. “This will raise us all up.”
Currently, SPARKodc has 40 members involved as Resilience Leaders to help solve the community-wide transportation issue. Owensboro Health, RiverValley Behavioral Health, Owensboro and Daviess County Public Schools, Public Life Foundation, The Hager Foundation, Owensboro Health Department, local shelters, churches, and citizens are involved, but it is open to anyone wanting to affect change.
A forum was held to gather information on what services are available and issues surrounding access. They discovered that while most households in Owensboro-Daviess County do not use public transportation (Busses, GRITS, cabs, Lyft etc.), there are members of the community without personal transportation.
This prompted the idea of a survey to find out what those members need, how many there are, what barriers are perceived and what collaborative and innovative ideas are needed to affect positive change.
“The city cares,” Conder said. “We just need to work together to solve the problem.”
SPARKodc surveys will go out Nov. 19
To complete a SPARKodc survey, community members can contact Evans-Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.