October 7, 2022
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The Mississippi Department of Transportation is working with the Mississippi Home Corporation and other community organizations within a program that seeks to provide housing assistance and job training to homeless individuals so they can become transit vehicle operators and help alleviate the serious driver shortage plaguing transit agencies statewide.

[Above photo by the Mississippi DOT]

Funded by a Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act grant, the program – called “D.R.I.V.E.,” short for “Developing Responsible Individuals with Valuable Education” – helps homeless individuals complete Certified Driver’s License or CDL training and obtain employment through the agency’s public transit division.

“These jobs benefit a lot of these individuals, who come from homelessness with no employment or from low income jobs with no benefits,” noted Tamara Stewart, program director with the Mississippi Home Corporation, a state agency formed in 1989 to develop private and public partnerships statewide to help develop more affordable housing.

“To have a stable job with benefits is life changing for them,” she added in a statement.

Many state departments of transportation are exploring different ways of helping the homeless populations in their areas.

Photo by AASHTO

Toks Omishakin – the former director of the California Department of Transportation and now secretary of the California State Transportation Agency – explained during a panel discussion in November 2021 that Caltrans is using highway right-of-ways or ROWs to address the housing challenges of his state’s homeless population, which now numbers north of 160,000 people.

“Our [state] budget allocates $12.2 billion over three years to address this issue,” he said. “In the Oakland area, we’ve built temporary cabins – what we call ‘Mandela Homes’ – for the homeless on right-of-ways. They also function as mini-employment centers offering help finding jobs.”

In October 2020, the Utah Department of Transportation and Zero Fatalities donated 3,500 reflective drawstring backpacks to homeless service providers throughout Salt Lake County to help those experiencing homelessness stay visible to drivers during the fall, which is typically the most dangerous time of year for pedestrians.

editor@aashto.org

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