Homeless individuals face many difficulties in their day-to-day lives, but one that can often be forgotten is the problem of transportation. Many rely on public transportation, bicycles or their own feet to make it around the city. Often, they may not aware of the importance of visibility or do not have the means to get the necessary items to stay safe and legal on the roads.
This morning Rachael and I had the opportunity to join Jennifer Jutkofsky of the Columbia Police Department and the Carolina Cyclers’ own John Quinn at the Midlands Housing Alliance Transitions Center to distribute front and rear lights as well as reflective ankle straps to Columbia’s homeless. These safety materials were purchased as part of a PCC program with DHEC’s Division of Injury and Violence Prevention and have been distributed across the state to a wide variety of individuals, including in a similar effort for Greenville’s homeless earlier this year.
At Transitions, we explained South Carolina’s laws and spoke with many people who reported being hit in the past while walking as well as riding. Two were especially grateful to receive lights as they had been ticketed for riding without them around the city at night. It is encouraging to see our local police enforcing the laws relating to bike lights, but it also highlights the crucial need to reach this vulnerable community.
This morning’s visit was a notable opportunity for Rachael and I because rather than staying in a behind-the-scenes capacity- working with DHEC to order the items, storing the materials, allocating them to the statewide community, processing data and submitting reports- we were able to personally participate in distributing and connecting with recipients. This first attempt at using this program to serve the homeless in Columbia was such a success that we would like to recreate it in other communities and major cities around the state. Our experiences today helped us to iron out some of the details and process, but we can always use help. If you are interested in volunteer or helping us as we develop this program, please contact Rachael at firstname.lastname@example.org!