The Center for Driver’s License Recovery and Employability held a driver’s license recovery event at Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin last Saturday.
The event was also sponsored by state and private organizations such as Wisconsin Community Services, Legal Action of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the City of Milwaukee Municipal Court.
The organizations’ goals are to assist low-income individuals in finding resources that can help them recover their driver’s licenses, to restore free driver’s education for low-income individuals, to improve public policy and to increase community awareness about the barriers created by revoked or suspended driver’s licenses.
“The state is working together to give the people resources,” said Reginald Newson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. “When people don’t know what resources they have, they can’t do what they need to do.”
The latest event helped individuals figure out what transportation-related fines they had on their record through the Department of Transportation and the Milwaukee Municipal Court. After determining an amount, individuals were put on the track toward payment.
Newson said he believes revoked and suspended driver’s licenses are the biggest barrier to employment in Wisconsin.
“Not only do people need their license to get to work, a lot of the time jobs require you to have a driver’s license before they’ll even consider hiring you,” Newson said. “When we help the people, they help the community, which helps the city, which is beneficial for the state. It’s all connected.”
Cheryl Lightholder, manager of communication for one of Goodwill’s Workforce Connection Centers and volunteer at the event, agrees with Newson and believes events such as this one are a step in the right direction.
“The best part is being able to help people get jobs so they can contribute to the community,” Lightholder said.
With over 500 individuals attending the event, Lightholder said she believes it was a success. According to Lightholder, there were about 350 pre-registered attendees and about 220 walk-ins. Those that came after capacity were given additional information and resources to help.
Richard McKenzie, one of the pre-registered attendees, was enrolled by his parole officer.
“Some people, like me, don’t know what to do,” McKenzie said. “I thought my fines were a lot higher than they turned out to be, and without this event, I wouldn’t have known at all.”
McKenzie said he thinks many Wisconsin residents neglect to pay their fines for various reasons.
“We’ve got bills to pay, children to take care of,” McKenzie said. “This is going to make it easier for people to do those things and still get their licenses back.”
The center will hold another event in October when many of the walk-ins that were turned away can come and get the process started.
“We’re constantly learning,” Newson said. “We’re learning what works and what doesn’t so we can make it better for Milwaukee residents the next time we do it.”