Cincinnati City Council Member Jeff Pastor recently presented a motion to explore the feasibility of veterans riding free of charge on Metro buses.
WCPO wanted to see the impact that would have in the community, so it turned to Easterseals Military & Veteran Services to meet veterans who faced transportation barriers in getting to better jobs, medical appointments, and more.
Mickey Harlow is one of those veterans. He now has a great job at Amazon in Hebron, which requires him to take a combination of Metro and TANK buses to get to work. An OVI caused him to lose his license.
But even getting that first bus pass was a challenge. He worked multiple minimum wage jobs for a month, just to earn enough money to buy one.
"If it weren't for Metro, I'd be stuck working minimum wage down here somewhere," Mickey told WCPO. "It helps a lot."
Transportation is one of the biggest needs facing veterans who turn to Easterseals for help getting into the local job market. In fact, more than 300 of the calls received at Easterseals Military & Veteran Services in 2019 were tied to transportation.
"That's almost a third of the calls, and that's not counting the veterans that have jobs but may fall short because of a bill, or have to get to the VA but don't have enough money to get to the VA," Chris Macklin, a job developer with Easterseals, told WCPO.
Mickey is well on his way, but even with reliable busing, the Marine veteran still faces a major barrier to transportation independence.
"It leaves no time for sleep or to do the things I got to do during the day," Mickey told WCPO. "There's no time left during the day to do what I have to do because commute is such a problem. It takes up four hours of my day."
Mickey recently bought a car, which will substantially cut down on his commute. It needs work to be ready for the road.
And there’s the issue of the OVI in his background. He is ready to have his license reinstated, but that will cost hundreds of dollars.
That’s where Chris Yeazel comes in. He saw the report about Mickey on WCPO – and brought it up to a group of fellow veterans at Crossroads Church. They knew they wanted to help.
"We have shared experiences. We want to be able to help each other, hold each other up," Yeazel told WCPO after seeing the initial report. "And for us, we’re Christian, so we obviously want to bring God into that mix and just show his love through our actions."
Yeazel and his fellow veterans pooled resources, surprising Mickey with the money he needs to get back behind the wheel.
"I was in shock, man. I’ve never had anybody help me out like this before. It lifts a big weight," Harlow told WCPO after receiving the gift. "I, uh, you know, with everything that’s happened the last couple months, I did buy a car that had a lot of problems. I thought it’d set me back another couple months.”
"He’s connected all the dots and crossed his T’s and dotted his I’s, and he’s basically just been an example of what happens when you follow a program," Macklin told WCPO. "He’s trying to fight his way out of a hole financially and get his driver’s license back and reintegrate with his kids, and this is just the result of his hard work."
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