On The Road To Success With The Austin Yellow Bike Project

October 6, 2016

Mike, an Employment Specialist at Caritas of Austin, can think of many ways that not having access to consistent transportation impacts his clients as they look for a job.

“They may be late to appointments with their case manager or miss classes. But the greatest impact is when they start working because punctuality is essential.”

The majority of Caritas of Austin clients do not have cars, and rely on public transportation to get to work. As Mike points out, if the bus is not running on schedule it can impact their clients’ ability to find and sustain employment. Relying solely on public transportation can also prevent clients from finding jobs that pay better, or are more suited to their skill set. 

Local nonprofit The Austin Yellow Bike Project (YBP) recognizes this problem and aims to put bicycles on the streets of Austin to combat some of the major challenges our city faces in regards to public transportation. In addition to donating bikes to those who need them, YBP also teaches bike maintenance so that their riders can get the most use out of them. 

Last year, YBP was struggling to figure out how exactly to get bikes to people who needed them. At the same time, Caritas of Austin was looking for a partner to assist them with finding bikes for clients so that they could achieve a degree of independence. YBP volunteer, Conti, describes their relationship with Caritas as that of a matchmaker, with YBP bikes being connected with Caritas of Austin clients who need them the most.

“We see bikes as a tool for self-sufficiency, so we couldn't be happier that Caritas recognizes that value,” Conti says of YBP and Caritas’ similar missions in empowering others. 

One year later, YBP now donates at least ten bikes a month to Caritas of Austin clients. They also provide any bike accessories that clients may need such as lights and bike locks. Caritas’ Employment Team even visited YBP onsite to learn more about bike maintenance and repair, so that they can share that knowledge with clients.

Both Caritas of Austin and YBP understand what having one's own personal form of transportation can mean for a person’s independence. Caritas Employment Specialist, Ghassan, tells a story of one client spending two hours riding the bus to and from work every day before he got a bike. “Having a bike gives him an option to go to work unbound by someone else’s schedule,” Ghassan says.

Conti is also inspired by how the relationship between YBP and Caritas of Austin is changing lives. “It's really the best,” she says. “We've heard about bikes putting smiles on children's faces. We've heard about bikes that meant transportation to meant jobs that otherwise wouldn't have been. Every one of those stories is tough to beat.”

Caritas of Austin’s partnership with The Yellow Bike Project has impacted lives in positive ways that no one involved could have anticipated. It is another reminder of what wonderful things can happen when different community organizations come together with a common goal. Thanks to The Austin Yellow Bike Project, more Caritas clients are on their way to finding employment and independence, and are achieving self-sufficiency!