A car dealership in North Carolina is providing speedy compassion to its community’s homeless families.
Kiplin Automotive Group in Charlotte, N.C., has been dealing used and pre-owned cars since 2013, but when the dealership’s manager, James Charles, found himself between homes in 2015, it changed him — and that, in turn, inspired him to change his business model.
“We were homeless — I’d like to say displaced — for 90 days,” Charles told CNN. “We didn’t have a place to live because (the owner) sold the house we were renting and we were unaware that it was being sold.”
Charles, his wife and their six children were mostly living out of hotels, and came close to crashing at the dealerships as well when hotels were booked.
“It was a tough time, a tough experience,” said Charles, who then resolved to help those in the same situation as best as he could.
“We want to make a difference, and we have the space to do that, and we want to be part of the solution,” he told WFAE in January.
So on January 23, Charles, who now owns the dealership, wrote a message to Charlotte’s homeless population on Kiplin’s Facebook page.
“It’s not news that people are sleeping in their cars at night. Searching for a safe place to park free from disturbance, trespassing, harassment or worse,” he wrote. “We know that some families are struggling and in a tough situation … whole families sleeping in the car.”
Shelters, he continued, “are full. We have experienced that firsthand.”
Then he shared a story about a customer who had been late on her car payments, despite, he discovered, using the vehicle as her home.
“We put her in a hotel until she could find a place but all — and I mean all — the shelters were full.”
That’s when he and the staff at Kiplin Automotive decided to “designate a safe place for those going through this tough time” by leaving empty spaces in their lot available for the homeless to park their cars and rest for the night.
Charles and his family have also founded their own nonprofit called HALO Now, and set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the folks who come through in need of resources, such as security deposits on new rentals to help those people find homes.
“We will provide a safe place to park at night,” he continued on Facebook. “As this service to the community develops we will look to help these families in other ways but right now a safe place is what we can offer,” he wrote.
And, in just one month, the fund-raiser has already racked up over $23,000. They’re also receiving unsolicited donations of warm clothing, blankets and even a port-a-potty.