Auto ownership program helps drive independence

Sometimes it is the lack of reliable transportation that is the major barrier to work, child care, career training and self-sufficiency.

While Ocean County cannot eliminate this barrier completely, it is making an effort through theAuto Ownership program that has been run through the auspices of the county’s Department of Human Services since 2002.

“This program helps public assistance recipients who do not have accessible transportation transition from dependency to self-sufficiency through employment,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Department of Human Services.

According to a press release from the county, so far this year 11 vehicles have been distributed through the program, while the cost of repairs and maintenance of 34 other vehicles has been covered.

Used cars are donated to the program by private individuals and public agencies.

“In some instances the largest obstacle standing between someone and an opportunity for employment is a ride,” Little said. “This program helps those residents who are trying to help themselves better their lives and the lives of their families.”

This countywide initiative is operated through funds received from the New Jersey Department of Human Services and provides an umbrella of transportation-related services to public assistance recipients, according to the press release. These services include used cars that are free of charge to the recipients as well as car repairs and help with insurance and titles. A transportation block grant in the amount of $71,630 is used to continue the program.

The individuals receiving cars must be active participants in the Workfirst New Jersey program, be in a training program or have successfully entered the work force. Individuals receiving help under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program are eligible for the program.

Little noted that the county has contributed vehicles to the program.

“The cars were older models with higher mileage, but in good working order, which makes them great candidates for this program as opposed to them being auctioned,” he said.

TheAuto Ownership program, run by St. Francis Center on Long Beach Island, depends on car donations to operate. For more information or to donate, call Elizabeth Silk at 609-494-8813, ext. 190.

“The program would benefit from the donation of cars in good working order from private individuals as well as from public agencies,” said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “This program really helps to make a difference for residents who are moving toward the goal of self-sufficiency.”