Posted by Vi Hughes on Jan 22, 2019
This Tuesday we heard from Shannon Gill, the Executive Director of Drive Happiness Senior’s Assisted Transportation. Drive Happiness provides low cost transportation for seniors in the Edmonton area. Their volunteer drivers will help clients from the door to the vehicle and all the way into their appointment. They will handle walkers and smaller foldable wheel chairs. They will then return later to pick up the client and return them to their door at home.  
Drive Happiness provided an average of fifteen hundred rides per month in 2018, and their drivers logged over two hundred sixteen thousand kilometers last year. Drive Happiness is a registered not for profit and relies on both government and private funding.
Clients must register and have a yearly income under thirty-five thousand dollars, if single or under sixty five thousand if a couple. There is a thirty dollar yearly fee and each ride is ten dollars per ticket. The ticket covers both to and from their appointment. The client must be able to get into and out of the vehicle with limited assistance.
There is a ninety minute limit on the ride, although under some circumstances they will provide a longer ride if they have a willing driver. They will take someone to multiple stops and wait for them as long as it is within the time limit. So a trip to the grocery store and the drug store or elsewhere and then back home is possible. They will take people anywhere, any time. To the airport at three in the morning, to church on Sunday, to an appointment at the hospital which requires a long walk through many corridors, or out of town to visit a relative. They also have drivers who can speak other languages. They currently provide service in Edmonton, St. Albert, Leduc, Sherwood Park and Strathcona County, and are in talks to expand their service further.
Their customers have an age range from fifty two to ninety nine and eighty percent are women. The client must arrange the ride several days in advance, by calling their office. All of their trips are made by personally talking to the client, not online, as most of their clients are not tech savvy. They ask to know where and when the ride is needed and approximately how long the appointment will take. Many of their clients are single individuals who greatly enjoy the company of someone else and their drivers are happy to provide conversation along with the ride.
Their volunteer drivers are interviewed, screened, vetted and trained to deal with all types of clients. They must all have a vulnerable persons record check in place. They must also have a clean driving record. They are trained to recognize problems with their clients and are able to connect them with other agencies that can help. They range in age from twenty one to eighty six. Their drivers go online and choose which rides they are able to handle and create their own schedules. They reimburse their drivers for the kilometers driven. Insurance coverage is through the driver first, but Drive happiness also carries extra insurance to cover their drivers in case of an accident.
Drive Happiness is funded by a New Horizons government grant which is coming to an end soon. They have two full time staff and three part time staff, housed in an office inside Steinhauer church . Their cost per ride is twenty seven dollars and their annual budget is about five hundred thousand per year. They received two hundred sixty thousand from government funding last year. Their current goal is to spread their funding sources out further. They are always looking for volunteer drivers and for other funding sources.