How United Way and Lyft are joining forces to overcome barriers

How United Way and Lyft are joining forces to overcome barriers

When Phillip* found out he needed a blood transfusion, his heart dropped.

Phillip has sickle cell anemia, which prevents his blood from carrying enough oxygen through his body. This puts him at a higher risk of other complications, such as a stroke.

A transfusion would help prevent future complications, but for Phillip, getting to the hospital for the transfusion would be a challenge. He didn’t have a car of his own, and none of his friends or family were available to take him for an appointment.

And, walking to the bus stop to wait in the cold would be dangerous for his health. Phillip thought he was out of options.

Thankfully, Phillip called United Way 2-1-1 for help and discovered he was eligible for Ride United. This innovative pilot program leverages the strengths of the United Way 2-1-1 network and ridesharing service Lyft to address unmet transportation needs for individuals and families.

Through Ride United, United Way 2-1-1 offers free Lyft rides to those in need for employment, medical and food purposes. In addition to the ride credits being provided by Lyft, United Way of Greater St. Louis is allocating an additional $10,000 to the initiative, which will provide at least 1,000 rides to those in need over the next year.

“There are many people in our community who do not have access to vehicles or public transportation, and this can keep them from accessing quality health care and food, keeping a job, and aging in their own homes,” said Justin Storie, director of 2-1-1 information services. “By helping those in need get to where they need to go, we’re helping bridge the gap and move individuals from crisis to stability.”

Last year, United Way 2-1-1 received more than 2,700 requests for transportation assistance in the St. Louis region, and 77% of these requests were unmet due to a lack of existing resources. Through Ride United, eligible riders can get to their jobs and interviews, doctor appointments, grocery stores and more.  

Providing rides to those in need ensures people can get life-saving medical treatments and medications. For those living far away from grocery stores, a ride can mean access to foods that help them stay healthy. A ride to a job interview can mean a fresh start and long-term stability for those experiencing unemployment.

The program is especially important during wintertime, when cold temperatures make it dangerous to be outside, especially for the elderly, very young and people with medical conditions, Storie said.

Because Ride United is a pilot program, riders must meet certain eligibility requirements to ensure the program can serve as many people in need as possible. Rides are only available to help access employment, medical needs and food in order to meet an extreme need, help in an emergency or gain stability.

When Phillip contacted United Way 2-1-1, a call specialist determined he was eligible for the program, and his Lyft rides to and from the hospital were covered.

Phillip left the hospital after the transfusion with a positive prognosis. His Lyft ride with Ride United did more than just make his life a little easier that day – it helped improve his health for a brighter future.

*Phillip’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.

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James Taylor
James Taylor