We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Su Waqa from Club 75, the first licensed adult day program in the United States serving the LGBTQ+ Seniors in the Bay Area, and Miss Patti Ann a community member to learn about the benefits of consistently pairing riders and companion drivers.
Working closely with Su and her team, Onward adapted programs to meet the needs of the Club 75's community and wanted to know if the services that Companion Drivers provide are meeting the mark. Much like how our Veteran riders going to Dialysis require a special level of care, so do Club 75 community members.
I sat down with Su and Patti: "As the program manager, can you see the benefits of consistently pairing riders and drivers together?"
Su: "This goes way back to the beginning and is actually a big part of why we built the first adult day program for LGBTQ+ seniors.
We found that in our community, some seniors had to go back into the closet to receive regular services and naturally, we wanted to dismantle that.
It's important for our community members to show up as their authentic selves and to receive the services they’d receive in a residential facility or if they're aging independently at home. We wanted to challenge the perception that aging LGBTQ+ adults needed to go back into the closet
to receive care.
As we built our model, we realized that a central component was the integration of transportation services. Without safe and reliable transportation to and from our programming, our community would struggle to access our services.
Our partnership with Onward is important because we're building trust and rapport within the
LGBTQ+ senior community and the consistency of paired riders and drivers helps us do that.
Once our community members start utilizing the services, they start talking about how they trust Denise. Or how they enjoy riding with Rigo.
To answer your question more directly, yes the difference that consistently pairing drivers and riders makes is very visible."
Su to Patti: "Miss Patti Ann, rides with Onward and has a few favorite drivers of her own, she can give her perspective best."
Patti (Pictured): "When I was 35 years old, I got to the point I couldn't hide Patti Ann anymore. I had to come out the way I wanted to and dress the way I love to dress. I love that no matter how I look, my drivers compliment me.
It's just like being in the car with a friend.
I told my drivers that I have mobility issues and after explaining it once, they got it. Now, they’re always there. They’ll put my seatbelt on, make sure I’m ok, and as soon as I’m ready, we just start talking like friends do."
Eric to Patti: How you would arrive here without a ride from Onward? Is there another way for you to get here?
Well, I live on my own and don’t drive anymore. I could get on the bus, but I won't. I hate it because sometimes it draws attention to me... I could get beat up!
I feel safe with my drivers because no matter how I walk or how many loud colors I wear, Rigo and Denise or Arthur aren’t bothered at all."
Su to Eric: "You can see this is a unique safety net and level of comfort that allows our community to show up as who they are, authentically, unapologetically, no matter where they’re coming from."
In addition to normal training such as CPR, First Aid, Rider Support and Advanced Rider Safety Training, Companion Drivers who assist the Club 75 Community undergo Cultural Competency Training which includes Unconscious Bias Training.
Reflecting on Su and Patti's words, we're proud to be a part of this story. Creating a culture of empathy and acceptance matters, and this very real, lived experience is proof. It's our goal to create this type of positive impact with all of our riders.