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Service Agency Provides Rides for Homeless

November 10, 1998|JENNIFER HAMM

Citing a need for hassle-free transportation, an Oxnard-based outreach group formally announced Monday a service that provides free bus rides for the homeless.

Operation WORK, a nonprofit organization, provides shuttle service to the county government center, Salvation Army, local hospitals and a slew of other resource facilities through a program called the WHEELS Transportation Project.

"What the homeless people have needed for some time is transportation in between those places because not one facility can provide all the services," said Steve Ebbinga, program director.

The WHEELS program, the only one of its kind in the county, has provided 800 free rides since it was launched in June. One bus and two vans run from early morning to midafternoon three days a week out of their base at the Ventura County Rescue Mission.

Gary Beaman, a participant in the mission's rehabilitation program, said he appreciates the service.

"We're fortunate to have it available to all the homeless in the area," the 47-year-old said. "It's a blessing."

The bus route includes 11 drop-off and pickup stops throughout the county, from employment centers to the county courthouse.

Funded with federal grant money, the WHEELS (Working through Housing, Employment and Education Linked Support) project even offers a ride to work for those who have just found a job.

Less than a year old, Operation WORK (Worthwhile Opportunities through Resources and Knowledge) also provides job training, career skills development, placement assistance and transitional housing.

Although Ebbinga agrees that some of the homeless aren't interested in finding jobs or getting back on track, he says most want to turn their lives around.

"A lot of these people do want to get ahead but they don't have the opportunity to do so because they are stuck in a pattern of homelessness," he said. "We want to challenge them and get them motivated to help them to see that you don't have to stay in this kind of lifestyle."

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