A viable means of transportation is often the one major barrier standing between a single-mother and life opportunities like employment and child care.
Ocean County hopes to reduce that hurdle as it continues its Auto Ownership Program in conjunction with St. Francis Community Center on Long Beach Island.
"This program has provided used cars to low income individuals seeking to enter the workforce, in particular in Southern Ocean County," said Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Department of Human Services. "Viable and safe transportation means individuals can access employment and training opportunities helping them to become self-sufficient wage earners.
"This program not only provides a car but it provides a person with a renewed self esteem and pride in getting back on their feet and regaining their independence," Little said.
The program is funded by a $71,630 Transportation Block Grant through the federal program known as TANF or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Under the program, St. Francis solicits donated vehicles from local car dealers, churches and the general public and partners with local businesses and Ocean County Vocational-Technical Schools to negotiate reduced costs for auto repairs and insurance policies. Ocean County government has donated used vehicles to the program.
Additionally, St. Francis works with clients to arrange driving lessons, and provides instruction in auto maintenance.
"We anticipate about 50 clients will benefit from this program this year," Little said. "This helps with not just getting someone to work but also to doctor's appointments, to day care for their children. Transportation opens up a host of opportunities to low income individuals who are trying to make a better life for themselves and their families."
The block grant funds are used to refurbish some of the donated vehicles, to obtain auto insurance, provide repairs to some cars, cover the cost of driving lessons and ultimately help individuals retain jobs.
"It's an important step to a better life," Little said. "I commend St. Francis for working in partnership with the County and other agencies to help those who are in need. It truly makes a difference."