HISTORY


In the mid-19th Century on the banks of the Mississippi River, the community of St. Louis struggled to help travelers headed west through their city. They came to explore the wide-open frontier, and maybe even find gold in the hills of California. But unreliable stagecoach schedules, cholera and unexpected delays in the journey often left travelers without the resources for basic human necessities like food and medicine. It was a time when medical and other community services were largely restricted to residents. Travelers had to rely on the kindness of strangers during their arduous journey. St. Louis, under the leadership of Mayor Bryan Mullanphy, struggled to help provide services to these American pioneers and new immigrants who became stranded on their journey to a new life. At his death in 1851, Mullanphy left half a million dollars in his will to help aid travelers going west. It wasn't long before his vision spread.

By the time America reached the 20th Century, Travelers Aid Societies had sprung up in major cities across the country: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. The programs began with the simple idea of protecting stranded people, especially women and children, from those who would use, abuse or victimize them in their time of misfortune. Ensuring a safe haven was the hallmark of Travelers Aid. Although many of the Travelers Aid programs were born in communities of faith, Travelers Aid provides services regardless of age, gender or beliefs. For more than 160 years, Travelers Aid has provided service to communities. During World War II, Travelers Aid was one of the original United Service Organizations (USO for short) that provided assistance to traveling service men and women. Travelers Aid operated troop transit lounges in 175 locations.


Today, one of the strengths of Travelers Aid is that its services respond to the specific needs of the community. While each member agency shares the core service of helping stranded travelers, many Travelers Aid agencies provide shelter for the homeless, transitional housing, job training, counseling, local transportation assistance and other programs to help people who encounter crisis as they journey through life.

In the 21st Century more people are traveling than ever before. Many are tethered to their support systems via credit cards, debit cards, & cell phones.  An interruption to their travels is an inconvenience but with money to spend and a reassuring call back home they can make the best of it. Such is not the case with people who live on the financial edge or when crime robs them of their identity and their resources. Traveling can be stressful under the best of circumstances, but an interrupted trip or an emergency is a crisis for the people involved and Travelers Aid is there to help.

Travelers Aid is most visible in transportation centers (the nations busiest airports, as well as bus and train stations) where each year people seek information or assistance. Every situation is unique: a woman who can't speak English turns to Travelers Aid for help in contacting her family; a diabetic person has an unanticipated delay in his journey and realizes he needs medicine; a Travelers Aid volunteer enables a teenager to contact her parents. More than 2,600 Travelers Aid volunteers provide reassurance as well as the information necessary for travelers to make informed decisions. Travelers Aid assists elderly and disabled persons, and anyone who needs extra attention to make their connections.

Travelers Aid has a rich history spanning three centuries and diverse programming designed to meet the needs of stranded and disconnected people in each of its member communities. Although modes of transportation have changed over the years, the needs of travelers and disconnected persons have not. Today, mobility is crucial to the economy and to the American spirit of freedom and independence. The complexities of modern life make Travelers Aid more valuable today and for more people than when it first began.

Travelers Aid International (TAI), based in Beltsville, Maryland, is the national association for Travelers Aid agencies across the country. Supporting the Travelers Aid mission, TAI provides a myriad of services and assistance to member organizations in local communities nationwide and also directly administers local programs.

Travelers Aid is assisted in its efforts through the generosity of individuals, foundations and corporations that help accomplish its mission. A corporate sponsor, Greyhound Lines, Inc. has helped Travelers Aid re-connect thousands of travelers with their families and/or a safe environment.