Anner Contreras Herrera’s medical condition requires that he see his health care providers regularly to maintain his health. But because he does not have reliable transportation. The Charlotte resident has spent nights worrying about how he would make it to his many appointments. Then he learned about an Uber rides program available through Care Ring. 

Supported by a $200,000 grant from the Health Access Fund of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Care Ring provides free Uber rides for patients and clients like Herrera. According to Care Ring, the grant, awarded in March, has already helped provide more than 2,600 free rides, averaging 31 rides daily.

Before learning about the Care Ring program, Herrera said, “I was very sad because I was scheduled with almost weekly appointments, and I was going to bed at night thinking, ‘How am I going to make my appointments? I do not have transportation, my friends work, and I do not have the financial means to pay for transportation.’ 

“Sometimes, I was almost begging someone to take me to my doctor’s visit, and I did not want to miss them because they are very important to my health. When I heard of the Uber ride program, I was almost in tears and thanked God for Care Ring because this program is amazing. The drivers come on time, they are kind and reliable, and they take me back home safely.” 

The free rides are just one way in which LISC, a national community development organization with an office in Charlotte, is helping local residents obtain health care, nutritious food, and safe homes. 

Anner Contreras Herrera. Photo courtesy of LISC

LISC Charlotte’s support reaches far and wide

Care Ring is one of 27 community-based organizations that received grants from LISC’s Health Access Fund, which seeks to reduce health disparities in underserved communities. 

The Health Access Fund, in turn, is just one avenue of support provided by LISC. Founded in 1979, LISC was envisioned as an intermediary connecting public and private resources to support underserved communities. Today, LISC is the nation’s largest community development organization and has 38 locations across the country. Nationally, the group has invested more than $24 billion in neighborhoods, people, housing, and entrepreneurs.

LISC Charlotte was formed in 2019 and is involved in a wide array of efforts to create stability and boost opportunity in Charlotte’s underserved communities.

“We work with residents and partners to really bridge the gap,” said Ralphine Caldwell, LISC Charlotte Executive Director. “We support the community through funding and technical assistance, and help with areas such as affordable housing, health, safety, sports and recreation and economic development — all the things that make up a great community.” 

The organization serves as the fund administrator of the $53 million Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund, an effort combining private and philanthropic investments to boost the city’s affordable housing for low- and middle-income Charlotteans, which has supported over 1,500 units of affordable housing. LISC has invested an additional $60 million in Charlotte through its other initiatives, which include:

  • More than 700 people served through LISC Charlotte’s  HUD Section 4 Capacity Building Program and partnership with community development organizations like Crossroads Corporation, Lotus Campaign and Supportive Housing Communities. The community development organizations have collectively received over $390,000 to support community-led affordable housing initiatives.
  • Funding small business loans and providing technical assistance to help entrepreneurs. For example, LISC Charlotte’s partnership with local business development organizations facilitated funds from LPL Financial to support Aspire Community Capital, The Women Business Center of Charlotte, and City Startup Labs to serve more than 672 entrepreneurs. Of the businesses supported, 97% were led by Black and Indigenous people of color and 80% were led by women. During the pandemic, LISC Charlotte provided over $3 million in capital to small businesses and facilitated the distribution of emergency capital.
  • Improving neighborhoods by helping residents build partnerships with corporations and city agencies. LISC secured $20 million from Fifth Third Bank’s Empowering Black Futures initiative that will focus on resident-led initiatives such as neighborhood revitalization, homeownership, critical senior support services and small business development. The group is focused on Charlotte’s Historic West End. 
  • Providing funding through the Health Access Fund. Working with Uber, PayPal and Walgreens, LISC created the fund during the Covid-19 pandemic to improve health equity by addressing transportation barriers to accessing health care and other essential services. 

“LISC Charlotte has made important contributions to our community in helping our residents improve their lives,” said Dena Diorio, Mecklenburg County Manager and a board member of LISC Charlotte’s Local Advisory Committee.

“Mecklenburg County is aligned in the work to empower, transform and promote innovation,” she said. “We are working to create a generational change, and that work can be daunting, but Mecklenburg County is committed, and we appreciate the partnership of LISC Charlotte.”

Long-term partnerships

Care Ring was awarded the grant through a competitive request for proposal process that attracted nearly 160 applicants.

Uber rides can be used for anything that impacts a health outcome or addresses one of the social determinants of health. In addition to using free rides to get to medical appointments, people can use the service for trips to the grocery store, to meet with a social services case worker, or to fill out an application for affordable housing. 

“They have been very innovative with their Uber rides,” Caldwell said. “Providing rides not just to doctors but for food access and non-clinical social determinants has been incredible.”

Miriam Barahona De Torres. Photo courtesy of LISC

Uber rides will be available until funding runs out, but the partnership and opportunity for Care Ring and LISC Charlotte to work together will continue after the grant funding has ended, Caldwell said.

“When a community organization is chosen to receive a grant, we say you become part of the LISC family,” she said. “When a group establishes relationships with the community, we want to continue to create opportunities together.” 

What is LISC?

LISC uses its resources, people and financial strength to power change. The organization has $374 million in total assets and raised an additional $95 million in private grant funds in 2019. LISC is the first community development financial institution to access the general bond market and carries an investment-grade AA-rating by Standard & Poor’s. 

LISC Charlotte is one of 38 LISC offices across the country, working with the community to open opportunities and well-being for all.

Care Ring

Founded in 1955, Care Ring provides health services for residents lacking access to affordable, high-quality preventive health care. 

The organization annually serves more than 7,600 people in Mecklenburg County with programs like its low-cost clinic, located inside the Ascend Nonprofit Solutions building in uptown Charlotte.

Between April and June, Care Ring coordinated 1,667 rides. Reasons for rides:

OTHER NON-CLINICAL SDOH* SERVICE28%
To  attend a primary care visit17%
See a specialist14%
OTHER CLINICAL/HEALTH/MEDICAL SERVICE11%
PRENATAL, POSTPARTUM, OR NEWBORN/MATERNAL CARE visit10%
FOOD ACCESS POINT (WIC, FOOD BANK, ETC)9%
CASE MANAGEMENT (MEDICAL OR NON-MEDICAL)5%
PHARMACY OR MEDICATION DELIVERY3%
HEALTH WORKER RIDE TO PATIENT/CLIENT2%

*Social Determinants of Health

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