Faith Based Organizations and Rural Transportation
Advocates and service providers frequently cite inadequate transportation as one of the major problems facing people with disabilities, especially those living in rural communities. Many approaches have been tried to address this problem. People with disabilities and community service providers frequently suggest that local faith-based organizations (FBOs) such as churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other organizations might be involved in improving transportation.
Faith Based Organization (FBO) - a generic descriptor for a place of worship, a “church-sponsored” agency (e.g. Catholic Charities) or other local non-profit organization.
Faith Community- a community of religious groups, including churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, etc.
In 2004, RTC: Rural conducted a national survey of recipients of Section 5310 Formula Grants for Special Needs of Elderly Individuals and Individuals with Disabilities. Ten percent of respondents reported being faith-based organizations, which suggests that nationally as many as 484 FBOs may provide Section 5310-funded transportation services.
Consistent with suggestions in the literature (e.g., Crawford, 1996; Sider &
Unruh, 2004), significantly more FBOs providing transportation tended to be
located in urban rather than rural communities (Seekins, Enders, Pepper, &
To date, researchers have completed a survey of centers for independent living
(CILs) which serve rural areas. The goal is to both assess how (or whether) CILS
partner with FBOs, and to establish a national sample of rural FBOs from which
to select survey respondents.
Sixty-two CILs (70%) responded. Responding centers served an average of 711
consumers, with a median of 400 consumers. They served an average of 7.1 counties, and in
their catchment areas some type of public transportation (fixed route,
on-demand, etc.) served an average of 3.9 counties. Thirty-five
respondents (56.5%) reported providing some transportation to their consumers. Of those,
nine CILs sponsored a voucher program. Still, CILs rated average quality of
public transportation in their service areas as “very poor” (range: 0=very poor
to 4=excellent), both for all individuals (.9) and for people with disabilities
Table 1. Numbers of CILs Reporting Various Transportation Services (N=38) Description of table.
Involvement with FBOs
Twenty-three respondents (37%) reported that their centers partnered with an FBO
(i.e., church, synagogue, Salvation Army, mosque, etc.) to conduct some form of
outreach activities. Five (8%) reported working with an FBO to provide
Table 2. Reported Barriers to CIL and FBO Transportation Collaborations Description of Table.
Table 3 shows numbers of CILs reporting various requirements that would have to be met in order to establish CIL-FBO transportation collaborations.
CIL Requirements for Establishing Transportation Collaborations with FBOs Description of Table
CIL respondents commented that they could work with FBOs but that there would have to be specific and clear objectives, with an understanding that the purpose would be to provide transportation and not to proselytize to consumers. Several respondents also commented that there was a need for funding such collaborative transportation projects.
Many people believe that FBOs could play a significant role in filling the rural
transportation gap for people with disabilities. A few rural centers for
independent living already work with FBOs to provide some transportation.
However, the overall willingness and capacity of rural faith communities to
serve non-members is unknown.
This study focused only on CILs located in non-metropolitan areas While 70% of surveyed CILs responded, 30% did not. As such, these results should not be generalized to all CILs.
We are conducting a national survey of faith communities located in responding CILs’ service areas. We hope to use these data to assess the willingness and capacity of rural faith communities to help solve local transportation problems.
Chaves, M. (1999). Religious congregations and welfare reform: Who will take
advantage of “Charitable Choice?” American Sociological Review, 64, 836-846.
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This report was prepared by Tom Seekins, Andrea Hartsell, and Diana Spas, © RTC: Rural, 2006. It is also available in large print, Braille and text formats. Our research is supported by grant #H133B030501 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education. The opinions expressed reflect those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the funding agency.
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