Milwaukie man on road to recovery after jail
TriMet released a video last month highlighting its nearly 50 partnerships with nonprofits, social service providers and government entities to expand access to a low-income fare program.
In the video, a young man described how he has turned his life around with help from TriMet's reduced fare and its partnership with Clackamas Community Corrections Transition Center.
Coty Hammond, who pleaded guilty to meth possession in 2018, works with the Transition Center to connect with resources, support and services after being released from jail. Its mission is to help break patterns and change lives.
Hammond admitted he's made mistakes and is no stranger to the criminal justice system. He doesn't like to talk about where he came from. He says it "wasn't the coolest place in the world," but during a visit to the Transition Center, he opened up about where he's going. He credits a program offered at the center, for helping to set his life in a new direction and TriMet, for helping him on the journey.
"When I got released from jail, I came here, to the Transition Center," Hammond said. "I was like, 'I'm not leaving until I get into a program. I need something that's stable and hard core.' They hooked me up with the Foundations Program. It wasn't easy, but it's something I definitely needed."
After being convicted on a theft charge in 2015, Hammond lost his driving privileges. Then in 2017, he was caught driving without insurance and with a suspended license.
Upon getting out of jail, Hammond signed up for TriMet's low-income fare program after he got a job at a metal fabrication plant on Swan Island, some 12 miles away from where he lived in Milwaukie.
He said he kicked a bad habit of driving without a license and started using TriMet to access almost everything. In addition to work, he took the bus or MAX to visit his children and finish his GED. He hoped that one day, transit would be part of his plan to go to school to become a welder.
"That way I can actually get a career instead of a job," he said. "Life is going awesome these days."
Hammond said he likes his job at Portland Glass Manufacturing.
"A lot of our clients risk riding without fare, getting stopped and receiving a citation," said Kimber Gillaspy, an employment and training specialist at the center. "It can be scary because there's already anxiety around touches with authority and law enforcement. To be able to avoid that and know you're riding with your fare ... it's a huge relief."
The low-income fare program allows participants access to unlimited rides on TriMet for $28 per month, a 72% discount off the cost of adult fare. It's open to Oregon residents, between 18 and 64 years old who live on up to double the federal poverty level. That's currently about $25,000 for an individual and up to $50,000 for a family of four.
"It's been a lovely match for individuals whose primary mode of transportation is TriMet because they can't get a driver's license because of fines, fees or sentencing guidelines," Gillaspy said. "When you're already facing the hardship of unemployment, no housing or homelessness, it's significant to say, 'Hey, if you meet these qualifiers, we can assist you' by getting you the low-income (Honored Citizen) fare card."
TriMet expanded its Honored Citizen reduced fare to allow qualification based on income after the Oregon Legislature adopted a 2017 transportation package providing the first-ever, ongoing, stable source of funding for public transportation in state history. More than 26,000 people enrolled in the program in the first 18 months that it was available.
TriMet has partnered with dozens of nonprofits, social service agencies, colleges and universities to expand access to the low-income fare program. Fifteen sites, including the Rosewood Initiative in East Portland, Community Action in Washington County, and the Portland State University's transporation program are open to the public. Other locations, like the Transition Center exclusively serve their clients. Included are service providers for people experiencing homelessness and offices of the Oregon Department of Human Services.
In addition to the Transition Center, TriMet has partnerships with Clackamas Community College, Clackamas County's social services department, and state DHS offices in Clackamas and Oregon City.
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