Those who struggle with homelessness also struggle with transportation: a crucial part of everyday life. California is far more car-centric than East Coast states, where public transport is significantly more developed. Regardless of the state, having access to public transportation matters. Unfortunately, all forms of public transportation require payment. Moreover, public transportation stations and buses provide much-needed shelter to those with nowhere else to turn. Additionally, public transit is a mode for children struggling with homelessness and needing a way to get to school.
Public transportation is a privilege. This summer BART, San Francisco’s subway system, rose its prices by 3.4%. An average BART ride costs roughly $3, the San Francisco MUNI costs $3, and CAL Train costs $6 to travel between one zone. Often we overlook the little things in our day-to-day lives. Those struggling with homelessness face an uphill battle daily, struggling with everyday necessities we often overlook or forget to appreciate.
Transportation means connection. For those without homes, it means a way to get to a shelter, a food bank, or a doctor. Yet, we often get in our cars and drive off to work, forgetting the millions of people struggling to maneuver around town.
In many cities around America, shelters and food banks are not on every corner; they are spread thinly throughout the city. As a result, it is very rare to find a shelter that will provide transportation to any of its patrons. That means it is on the people who need their services to try and secure vehicles to the shelter.
As mentioned above, states like California have a highly inadequate public transit system. Many areas are poorly covered or not covered regarding bus routes or trains. California has inadequate infrastructure that keeps impoverished communities, who rely on it the most, impoverished and close to being unhoused.
Often those unhoused are forced to walk miles a day to get necessities, or survive without them.
Public transportation is a way out as well. It gives people access to more opportunities and possibly a way out of homelessness. For example, it would allow individuals to travel to work or school.
Many children and adults rely on public transit to go to and from school. Having any form of education has been established to help those suffering homelessness find jobs and eventually a way out of struggling with homelessness. Moreover, it keeps people in school. Having a reliable way to go to and from a place encourages people to attend school and not worry about how they are getting home.
However, public transit doesn’t just act as a way to get from point A to point B for unhoused individuals. It also serves as a shelter.
Buses, trains, and subway cars are all climate controlled, well-lit, and comfortable. Most importantly, they are relatively safer than being on the streets.
Not just the buses, but bus stops and train stations provide safer shelter compared to other cities. Train stations often have regular sanitization and are well-lit. As a result, they are safer places to sleep. In addition, there is access to trains and buses around the area, giving them access to shelters and food banks.
Unfortunately, most public transit areas are very anti-homeless. Those who struggle with homelessness are often chased out or told to vacate the premises, either traveling all night or forcing them to stay somewhere dirty and unsafe.
San Francisco is trying to make a change; they have outreach teams for those struggling with homelessness. A pair of outreach workers will help individuals find shelter and put them in contact with the appropriate services to help them out of homelessness.
Bus drivers will allow most unhoused individuals onto the bus for free. However, most trains require tickets and ask individuals to get off the bus and possibly issue a ticket.
In over 100 cities worldwide public transportation is free and accessible. It puts less pressure on authorities and the environment. It also helps unhoused individuals get to and from places by removing an overlooked obstacle.