By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
It can be hard just to land a job.
But getting to work creates even more challenges if you don’t have transportation.
The Milwaukee Urban League has launched a pilot program to help residents overcome this hurdle.
The Leading Access to Success Transportation program, better known as the L*A*S*T* Mile Program, provides Milwaukee Urban League clients with temporary transportation to their job sites. The program launched Jan. 25.
“Two of our major focus areas are education and employment,” Eve Hall, president and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League, said. “And what we’ve learned through employment is that while there are opportunities, transportation has been an issue, especially for those who had job opportunities on the outskirts of Milwaukee, where public transportation is rather limited.”
Shirron Hines, director of programs, said the program picks up clients from the Milwaukee Urban League, 435 W. North Ave., or Vincent High School, 7501 N. Granville Rd., and takes them to their employers.
It is open to any Milwaukee Urban League client who successfully completes program participation requirements before job placement and has an identified transportation need. The L*A*S*T* Mile provides transportation to employers not accessible by public or other transportation services.
The program was made possible thanks to a $50,000 grant the Urban League received from its partner Stella & Chewy’s, a pet food supplier based in Oak Creek. The Milwaukee Urban League is working with the transit company American Transit Team to provide transportation.
Hines said the pilot program is projected to last about seven months.
“To have a good thriving transportation program, it will run anywhere between $250,000 to $300,000 per year, if it’s a good program,” Hines said.
The program has 75 slots available, said Sakuri Fears, the empowerment services manager.
Hall said the hope is that other companies, especially those interested in diversifying their workforce, will partner with the Milwaukee Urban League to financially support the L*A*S*T* Mile program.
“Our goal is always to create independence for the people who come to our doors,” Hall said. “Or that through our own work and policy and advocacy efforts, that we can help influence a continued improvement in public transportation.”
Education and employment
The program is a part of the Milwaukee Urban League’s overarching mission: to help African Americans achieve economic equity through education, employment training and advocacy work.
Trying to close the economic divide means making sure individuals have access to jobs that pay $15 an hour, Hall said.
The organization’s programs focus on education, youth and workforce development. The programs include Project Ready, which helps high school students balance employment and education; Graduate to Employment, which prepares students for tech school or trade work; Employment Assistance Program, which helps individuals train for and identify employment opportunities; driver’s education classes and more.
The programs are free, but Hines said she asks that clients come with a willing attitude and a commitment to succeed.
While economic disparities still exist, Hall said there is an intentional effort in Milwaukee to close the gap, now more than ever.
“I see there being greater activity and more collective thinking and problem solving around what needs to happen,” Hall said. “I’m seeing companies really step up to the plate with trying to support organizations like ourselves who are doing the grassroots work.”