From The Citizen
By Tia Carol Jones
During the pandemic, app-based platforms like UberEats, Doordash, Lyft and Instacart, have been able to fill the gaps while people were not able to go out to their favorite restaurants and grocery stores to get food.
Those platforms also provided much needed employment opportunities for those unemployed or underemployed during the pandemic, as well as partnered with community organizations to bring much needed resources to underserved communities.
Marian McCullough has been a dasher with Doordash since October 2020. McCullough said when she suffered an injury and had to have surgery, maintaining a stable income became important to her after her disability payments ended. She said her daughter worked for Doordash and told her to apply to be a dasher.
“Being a dasher has allowed me to make money without sacrificing flexibility. I like the fact I’m able to make my own hours, start whenever I want,” she said. “I knew I needed to find a job that meets my needs and allow me to make an income and take care of my health. And, not only my health, take care of my grandson who I have custody of.”
McCullough said app-based work has empowered her to make her own hours and being an independent worker, it was very important for her to make her own hours and work on her own schedule. She said her real heart is with helping the homeless.
“Being a dasher has allowed me to help homeless people, as well. It’s so many people living in tents. I like to go up to the tents and ask them what they need most. At first, I thought it was food. They said they appreciate food, but they need essentials,” she said, adding that while she has another job, it doesn’t offer the same flexibility as working for Doordash. “As our economy recovers from the effects of the pandemic, I think it’s very important that Chicagoans like myself have access to app-based jobs. Right now, people need more opportunities for earning options, not less.”
McCullough said the flexibility and independence app-based workers have needs to be maintained and sustained. She said people have also been very generous, adding she’s very satisfied with the tips. She said the customers are also great and nice to work with adding that most of her money came from the tips she received.
Doordash provided $500,000 in financial support to Chicago restaurants during the winter to help cover the cost of restaurants to winterize their outdoor dining areas. It has a $20,000 grant program that is available for 26 local restaurants owned by people of color.
Lyft has partnered with six community organizations in Chicago to provide access to free and discounted rides to low-income, uninsured residents to get to and from vaccination sites. Social Change is one of those community organizations.
Todd Belcore, co-founder and executive director of Social Change, said Social Change is also hosting vaccination events, as well as providing access and transportation to those events. He said the organization is working with Lyft and the healthcare partners to provide access and to build that bridge. “We’re in the community, we’re housed on the South side, people on our team are from the South and West sides and they know what it’s like to know something is available but know it’s not available to you, because it’s something that would take two or three buses to get to, or have some other hurdles to make it much more difficult for you to get access to,” he said. “So, we wanted to partner with Lyft because Lyft, not only has this wonderful opportunity, but also, they’re corporate living is truly one that is community-driven and community supporting.”
Belcore said Lyft has been integral in allowing people in communities to be their own boss and make their own schedules. “As much as we can in our community, we need to encourage and foster opportunities for people to be entrepreneurs,” he said. “Lyft doesn’t just keep all that money, and keep it to themselves, they also make sure they do more to get to the underlying needs and the real needs of community members, so it’s not just providing employment, it’s what can we do to help people who are in between jobs or looking for opportunities.”
Social Change was founded in 2012 with an International Film Festival. It responds to community’s needs through food distribution events, as well as masks and gloves and hand sanitizer. It also works to change legislation and liberty and justice work. “We get to the bottom of all that stuff and get to the root cause by changing the laws responsible for those injustices,” Belcore said.
Belcore added access and accessibility are important when you consider a person from the Southeast side of Chicago trying to get to the United Center to get vaccinated. “If you lived on the Southeast side, it would take you an hour and a half to get to the United Center. Then, you wait in line. So, a four-hour commitment or a five-hour commitment, for a community member, that’s not accessibility. That’s availability, not accessibility,” he said, adding that with Lyft providing rides to vaccination sites in the community, it is more accessible. “They can just use the code and get curb side service to and from the things they need, they can schedule it, go about their day,” Belcore said. But more importantly, he added, they can be protected and be in a better position to protect others.
The next Social Change vaccination event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May, 22, at IIT. To register, visit socialchange.site, as well as on Social Change’s social me