Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Exile from Main St: suburbs need service shuttles

An old client who used to be poor in San Francisco is now being poor in a remote suburb. She lives in a small world around a small apartment complex.

In a recent long-distance phone call, we realized the most helpful thing I could do would be to mail her a printed Google Map of the bus journey to her "local" legal aid office. The legal aid office is in the suburb's downtown. The apartment complex is on the town's periphery. I don't know if she'll gather the courage to go. For her a trip like that would be a big step into the unknown.

It's a reminder that in all the popular American cities, poor people are being expelled from central urban neighborhoods. Remember when people said "inner city" like it was a bad thing? Not so much any more. Now poor people who had and knew the advantages of living downtown are being expelled to peripheries. With much else, they're losing the huge advantage of getting to services on foot.

If some liberal in search of redemption wants to start a charity now that gets ahead of the demographic curve, a good one would be a system of jitney/shuttle van services for the suburbs receiving displaced urban poor people. The vans could offer rides to Legal Aid, meal programs, food banks, welfare and Social Security offices, temp and day labor centers, major low-wage employers.

I mean, ideally people would get around by public bus, but public services are never what they were or could be in these places, 

Drivers for poverty van services, if they were smart and nice people, could do a lot of good.

I'm thinking of how it is in rural Tulelake, California. There, if you want to interview the area's elders, all of whom have good stories to tell, the person to see is the driver of the senior meal shuttle. I'm not sure who drives it now, but as of several years ago the shuttle was one of Bob Galeoto's several sidelines. Bob knew everyone, they knew him, and if someone was in trouble he would have noticed and gotten them help.

In fact, seriously, could someone please get around to setting up good suburban service shuttles before the profiteers take hold?

No comments:

Post a Comment