Uber renewed its support of Pittsburgh domestic violence survivors

The company will fund the Women’s Center & Shelter’s 2018 transportation budget.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
MJ Slaby

Update, 12:47 p.m. Nov. 7:

Uber renewed its partnership with the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh by funding the organization’s annual transportation budget for 2018. That’s in addition to a $5 million commitment over five years to national efforts for sexual assault and domestic violence awareness and prevention initiatives that the company announced Monday.

Original article:

Survivors of domestic violence can now take an Uber to the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, thanks to a new partnership with the ride-sharing company.

On Tuesday, Uber donated $10,000— an amount equal to the shelter’s annual transportation budget — so the staff can call for rides for women and children.

Right now, the staff at the women’s center typically calls and pays for taxi rides for women and children, but the Uber donation will allow for ride-sharing services instead, which are often less expensive. The rides are for women and children’s arrival, as well as for those staying there who are going to medical, legal and other appointments or their new homes.

Currently, if someone is coming to the shelter, they must be in a safe place first such as a police station before staff will call for a ride, said Chief Program Officer Nicole Molinaro Karaczum. That remains the case for Uber rides.

Plus, Jennifer Krusius, Uber general manger for Pittsburgh, said drivers don’t know the destination before accepting a ride, so they won’t be able to tell which rides are are part of the donation before agreeing to the trip.

Molinaro Karaczum said it’s hard to estimate the number of rides that the Uber donation will cover, because some women and children are coming from 10 miles away and others are hundreds of miles away.

“It will be a lot,” she said, adding that the organization serves more than 500 women and children in its shelter each year.

The donation will also allow the funds designated for transportation in the nonprofit’s operating budget for other needs such as food and bedding for clients, Molinaro Karaczum said.

The idea for the partnership started with Pittsburgh Councilman Dan Gilman, who said he reached out to Uber with the proposal. He said it’s a way to serve the community and he considers it something that will have “a profound and life changing impact” on Pittsburghers.

Shari Shapiro, Uber head of public affairs for Pennsylvania and Delaware, agreed. She said this partnership is the first she knows of between Uber and a women’s shelter. And it’s something she said the company is watching to see if there is a possibility for expansion. A similar partnership between Uber and a homeless shelter in Massachusetts already exists.

But as for continuing this partnership beyond 2017 or expanding it to other Pittsburgh nonprofits, Shapiro said it’s too soon to tell.

Uber officials have previously stressed the ride-sharing service’s uses beyond trips to restaurants and bars. During the National League of Cities conference in November, Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy David Plouffe (via Skype) and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto discussed how Uber wants to work with existing transportation systems to create more independence for low-income and elderly people.

The example Plouffe gave then was of someone calling an Uber to their home to go to a transit center for public transportation and then after they ride a bus or train, another Uber can take them to the doctor’s office or store.

Shapiro echoed that on Tuesday, saying the partnership is “about ensuring that a safe ride is always available for those underserved by traditional transportation options.”

“At Uber, our goal is to improve transportation for everyone, making it affordable and reliable,” she said.