Tag Archives: children public transit

VetLink: Helping veterans and their families

Army veteran Paul and his wife Hannah with their children
7-year-old Maddox and 1-year-old Jayce

For many people, the bus is more than just simple transportation. Sometimes it’s the tipping point that helps them turn their lives around and get a fresh start. That’s why Omnitrans partners with organizations like VetLink, which helps connect veterans, active military, and their families with services and destinations they rely on every day.

Army veteran Paul, his wife Hannah and their two children 1-year-old Jayce and 7-year-old Maddox, are a perfect example of how VetLink helps change lives.  For the past three months the family has been homeless, living in shelters and trying desperately to get on their feet again. And they have had a lot of challenges to overcome.

Hannah and Maddox

Hannah has struggled with addiction issues, and Paul with anxiety and depression.  Paul lost his job of 10 years and found a commission-based job that barely covered food and diapers. The family eventually lost their home because they could no longer afford to make the payments. The couple is now working on rebuilding their family.

It’s a commitment that means everything to them, and they are determined to make it work. But they couldn’t do it alone. They called VetLink, a project of 2-1-1 San Bernardino County.

When he received the family’s call, Vetlink representative Osvaldo Maysonet sprang into action. “Thanks to assistance from Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, the family had just moved into a subsidized apartment in San Bernardino.” he explained. “The problem was, they literally had nothing. Normally we refer people to an agency that might be able to assist them. But this family’s situation was so bad, I didn’t want to do that. Instead I went through my network of contacts to share their story and ask for help.”

A very tired Jayce falls asleep in his dad’s arms

The first night in their new apartment Paul and Hannah spent the night on the tile floor with just a sheet to cover them. Maddox slept on a blanket and little Jayce in the Pack and Play he has almost outgrown.

“People here were so kind,” said Hannah. “One of our neighbors came over and brought us dinner and offered to let us use their fridge for the baby’s bottles. Another neighbor brought us an old sheet to hang on one of the front windows for privacy.”

“It was so unexpected,” agreed Paul. “You talk to people and realize that they’ve been in the same boat as you. We’re all trying to overcome problems and turn our lives around. Nobody here has a lot, but they were still willing to share with us.”

Maddox excitedly shows off the family’s new fridge.”My dad makes the best roast beef sandwiches ever!” he told us with a grin.

By the second night, Osvaldo’s contacts had come through with help. Donations of couches, a refrigerator and a twin bed for Maddox were delivered to the family’s home. Osvaldo himself stopped by, his arms filled with grocery bags. “I work with a lot of very caring individuals,” he said. “And they sent you guys some stuff: some food, bed sheets for Maddox, shampoo, toilet paper, paper towels, blankets and a box of diapers. Someone has also donated a bedroom set that will be delivered tonight.”

The family was stunned by the generosity of the donors. “We’ve been so blessed,” said Hannah. “It is amazing how people are reaching out to help. It means so much to us.”

Omnitrans has been another important step in changing their lives. The family completely relies on the bus to meet all their everyday needs including groceries, appointments, AA meetings and trips to the VA hospital. They even depend on the bus to ride with Maddox to and from school.

Jayce plays with a truck donated by a little boy who wanted to share some of his own toys with the family.

“Maddox loves school,” said Hannah proudly. “He just got an award for excellence in writing. The last two weeks have been really rough because we moved from the homeless shelter we were in, and I didn’t have any way to get him to school.  He ended up missing almost a week. Today he came home crying because he only got 10% on his spelling test. I hugged him and told him it was okay, that next week we’ll just do better. He’s such an incredible kid and so happy all the time.”

“I thinks it’s because he’s with you guys,” Osvaldo observed. “He’s got two really caring parents. That’s what it tells me.”

Although there are still challenges ahead, the family is hopeful for the future. They are making friends in the community and have even been invited to join the local church.

“We feel so blessed by all we’ve been given,” said Hannah. “I really feel like there was a higher power at work. Our family has been given a fresh start, and we’re grateful for VetLink, Osvaldo, Omnitrans and all the people who helped make that happen.”

Osvaldo Maysonet (rear) from VetLink helped secure living essentials for the veteran family through his network of contacts.

 – Juno Kughler Carlson

Savvy Mom Goes Smart

Erica Clendenen and her oldest son Isaiah

Pursuing a college degree as a 43-year-old divorced mom of three on a tight budget can be challenging—especially when you don’t drive.

But that’s not stopping Omnitrans rider Erica Clendenen, who is currently working on her associates degree at San Bernardino Valley College and plans to pursue her bachelors in social work at Cal State University, San Bernardino. Although she tries to take her courses online whenever possible to keep costs down, several of them require live classroom training.  Thanks to the Go Smart program, she can easily get to her classes—and anywhere else she needs to go—by riding the bus for free with just her student ID.

Chelsea Clendenen grabs a quick bite at the bus stop

“I couldn’t do this without Go Smart,” admits Erica frankly. “I have three children ages 8, 10 and 15, so getting around can be very expensive for us as a family.  Having my own bus fare covered by the program helps us tremendously.”

Erica’s kids have been riding Omnitrans for so many years that they know all the stops and routes by heart. Her youngest loves the bus and enjoys saying hello to the drivers. Erica herself is a technology buff and a huge fan of NexTrip.

“I’m obsessed with the NexTrip app!” she laughs. “I’m on it more than games or anything else on my cell phone. Before, I was always missing the bus. Now I set alerts to notify me two minutes in advance of when the bus is arriving.  I love it! I’m pretty impatient and don’t like sitting at the stop. With NexTrip, I can do some shopping at the grocery store instead of just waiting around.”

Like many Omnitrans riders, Erica has a heightened sense of community and a strong desire to make a difference.

Elijah Clendenen waits for the bus

“My goal is to work with troubled teens when they first get into the court system—to help them turn their lives around. It’s so easy for kids to get involved with gangs and drugs and guns. I’m thankful that my 15-year-old is a homebody. He’s an honors student and would rather be at home playing his video games than out on the street. But some of his friends have been in trouble, and it’s really hard. We’re losing too many young men to the street. They need someone to believe in them. They need to know that even though your neighborhood or living situation might not be great, you can choose to go forward and make a better life. It’s all about making good choices.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson