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VA Rideshare Program Adapts to Meet Needs During COVID-19

Published on Nov 10, 2020 at 8:03 am in Rideshare Services.

In 2018, Charles Franklin created the Veterans Employment Rideshare Initiative, also called Rideshare. Now, that program is being used to help veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Franklin noticed as housing costs in inner cities rose, veterans moved outside the city where public transportation was less accessible. Rideshare helps homeless veterans get to job interviews and find housing opportunities by connecting veterans with services like Uber and Lyft.

The initial program was launched at the VA Boston Healthcare System and the Memphis VA Medical Center. With support from the VHA Innovation Ecosystem’s VHA Innovators Network (iNET), the project has expanded to the following locations:

  • VA St. Louis Healthcare System
  • VA Western Colorado Health Care System
  • VA Connecticut Healthcare System
  • Manchester VA Healthcare System
  • VA Central California Health Care System
  • VA Palo Alto Healthcare System
  • VA Northern California Health Care System
  • VA Pacific Islands Health Care System

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Franklin recognized homeless and near-homeless veterans were at a higher risk of contracting the virus, as well as being unable to attain access to necessities easily. According to Franklin, “We saw that the Veterans we serve were going to be hit hard by COVID-19. Many of their regular resources were closed down. We knew we had this established network of ridesharing services and started looking into how we could use it.”

As a result, Rideshare has connected veterans with employment during this time and with food and care they would otherwise not be able to receive without putting themselves at high risk for contracting the virus.

The VA leveraged the Rideshare network to move the problem away from transporting veterans and instead focusing on transporting food to veterans. The Rideshare team delivers food from food banks to veterans in transitional housing in Boston, St. Louis, California, Nevada, and Pacific Island VA facilities.

In addition to that, Rideshare also started providing transportation for all Veterans with weakened immune systems who were receiving radiation or chemotherapy and who would otherwise have had to use public transportation in St Louis.

Since adapting to meet veterans’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has delivered over 325 boxes of food to isolated, high-risk veterans. Each box contains a two-week supply of food.

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