Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Car Programs for the Needy

Heard the urban legend about free cars for the poor? So has everybody. The truth is a little more complicated. The federal government, and lots of local groups who work with the poor, realize the importance of having good reliable transportation in holding down a job and getting a hold on a better financial future. So TANF (temporary aid to needy family) money has gone to financing local programs to help poor people get a running car. Not a new, fancy car of one’s choice, just something that will reliably work every day. The local groups getting the money can create a lot of different programs with that money: some have chosen to fix up broken-down cars owned by the poor person until they are in running order, or work with buyers to purchase donated, fixed-up cars. Some nonprofits have gone the IDA route, and helped match the savings of a poor person so that they can buy a used car.

While I cannot find a comprehensive list, there some national listings I can find, and they aren’t really exhaustive: one is at Working Cars for Working Families.  There is also Vehicles for Change. There's also Free Charity Cars, in which you put your need for transportation up for a vote.  Really.  Another is Charity Cars.  Also, the LA Times printed a national list of organizations that help the poor get cars, so check each list.

The secret is finding a program in your community. Some programs are administered through the local human services office (what was once called the welfare office), which can go by many names. If you can't find a program through the sites above, see this link to identify your state human services office, and they can give you the local contacts. Even if they don’t run a car program themselves, they may tell you who does in your area. Here's a word of advice: the qualifications for eligibility will differ from one local program to another.

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