East Wellington Community Services' transportation services remain vital

·3 min read

The demand might not be quite as high with the current stay-at-home order, but residents in need of low-cost transportation still have a way to get to the places they need to go.

Offices of East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) have closed due to pandemic restrictions.

However, its subsidized bus service is still available on request and for many these services are a lifeline.

“My appointments would be in Rockwood or Guelph,” said client Sytske Drijber. “I’ve been lucky health-wise, so I don’t need to go any further than Guelph.”

A veteran who served in the Second World War, Drijber has used the transportation services for about three years. She typically calls for rides but has been self-isolating as much as possible. She has her doctor appointments over the phone.

“They made the arrangements by the phone, and they would come to the house,” said Drijber. “I would be picked up, cared for, and taken to the doctor. Sometimes they waited, and other times they would come back and pick me up again. It was excellent.”

The buses are available for those who need transportation or someone to pick up a donation, prescription, or grocery order. There are no other public buses, trains, and taxis are virtually non-existent in the area.

“If you live in Erin and you want to call a taxi from Orangeville, the price would be huge, just to come to come out to Erin and take a person where they need to go,” said Barb Carscadden, manager of volunteer engagement and transportation services. “There’s nothing going on in terms of transportation. That’s why we felt we had to step in and provide that for people.”

They had about 15 to 16 drivers taking people to their medical and social services appointments. Their volunteer base diminished with one or two staff members covering the community.

“Doctor’s offices at the beginning, and still, are not seeing people in person," said Carscadden. "A lot of times, people are talking to their doctors over the phone or through computers, but we still have to drive certain people to their appointments that must take place in person."

They still take people to their dialysis, dentist, optometrist, X-ray, blood work, and specialized appointments. However, they have seen a decrease in ridership. Carscadden anticipates the numbers going right back up to where they were when the pandemic ends, whenever that is.

“We have quite a few people on our roster. I would say probably close to 150, but those people aren’t all using the service currently,” said Carscadden. “On any given day, I would say on average you’ll see us out there driving four to five people a day to different places, and that’s mainly by one driver. He is a paid staff member, and he drives our agency vehicle with our logo on it.”

Social distance measures have been incorporated on the bus. An 18-seat vehicle can now only take four people to an adult day program in Erin.

The transportation program is just one of many provided by EWCS. Others include food relief, outreach support and youth services. EWCS works to address health care, transportation, and social service. People need to live in the Town of Erin – Hillsburgh, Brisbane and Ballinafad – or the Town of Guelph Eramosa.

To book an appointment or for more information, call Krista Heilesen, transportation co-ordinator, or Carscadden, at 519-856-2113.

Story behind the story: The Advocate reached out to East Wellington Community Services to learn how the pandemic has affected demand for its transportation program.

Joshua Santos, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Orangeville Banner