by Darren Slade
In our digital and physical travels around the U.S., we at FaithX like to keep our eyes open for examples of people, programs, communities, or ministries doing creative, innovative, and experimental things in the area of faith. When we find one, we like to shine a spotlight on them in a FaithXperimental blog post.
One of the biggest factors that contributes to perpetual inequality, poverty, and a risk of homelessness in the United States is a lack of self-sufficient transportation. In fact, immigrants, impoverished families, and people of color – especially African-Americans – are significantly more likely to suffer from car-lessness than non-poor families. Being without their own means of transportation tends to have a negative snowball effect on their overall economic circumstances (Klein & Smart, 2017). Having to rely exclusively on buses, subways, commuter trains, and other forms of public transportation means greater commute times and less scheduling flexibility. This, in turn, can have a severe impact on the ability to meet basic needs, like buying groceries, filling prescriptions, and going to the doctor, and may ultimately even result in loss of income or unemployment (cf. Hensley et al., 2018).
It was an understanding of the potentially severe consequences that led members of the Tulsa Oklahoma community to gather together in 2002 to launch the Car Care Clinic (CCC) of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a unique ministry dedicated to helping poorer families remain self-sufficient by providing free car repairs.
We’ve all been carless at one time or another, due to some unexpected breakdown, accident, or random act of destruction (or sometimes just running out of gas). We’ve all experienced the frustration of being stranded without a car for hours or days while waiting for the mechanic or body shop to complete the repairs. And we’ve all gritted our teeth while waiting for the dreaded repair bill.
Even for middle-class families, car repairs can pose a real financial pinch. A simple oil change can cost a proverbial “arm and leg.” And a major repair with most modern vehicles can end up costing hundreds of dollars, maybe even thousands. Most of us don’t have that kind of money lying around for out-of-pocket expenses.
Now imagine you have one car for the entire family, and that one car stops working. This is where a ministry like CCC can make a huge difference in the life of a family with limited income.
As their mission statement expresses, CCC is “passionate about empowering others to achieve economic and personal independence that comes with mobility. In our sprawling community, automobile ownership is the most practical solution.” They recognize that owning a functioning vehicle is essential to family care, healthcare, and home care. As CCC explains, “Many of those we serve are one car breakdown from slipping into extreme poverty. For some, safe, reliable transportation is the only thing standing between them and homelessness. Helping families break out of the generational cycle of poverty that surrounds them must include addressing their transportation needs.”
The Car Care Clinic is an example of what can happen when people from a community identify an important but oft-neglected contributor to poverty, then pool their resources to address the issue, using the skills of their community to keep people self-sufficient, stable, and dignified.
Click here to learn more about the Car Care Clinic, its mission, and and the work it does. By the way, they also accept donations from outside of Tulsa.
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Hensley, C., Heaton, P. C., Kahn, R. S., Luder, H. R., Frede, S. M., & Beck, A. F. (2018). “Poverty, Transportation Access, and Medication Nonadherence.” Pediatrics, 141(4), 1-11. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-3402
Klein, N. J., & Smart, M. J. (2017). “Car today, gone tomorrow: The ephemeral car in low-income, immigrant and minority families.” Transportation, 44(3), 495-510. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11116-015-9664-4