By Katrease Stafford, Detroit Free Press
July 28, 2015
Disabled veteran Arthur Dye couldn’t help but smile Tuesday as he turned the key and revved his used Jeep Grand Cherokee’s engine to life in the parking lot of the newly opened Vehicles for Change in Detroit.
Two years ago, Dye was homeless and living out of a shelter on the city’s east side while he tried to piece his life back together.
Dye, who now works as a cook at the Don Bosco Hall, worked hard to turn his life around but getting to his job every day was a mounting task for the 49-year-old. Dye had to wake up in the wee hours of the morning at 2:30 a.m. to catch the bus in order to make it to work on time at 6 a.m.
But now Dye will no longer have to worry about transportation.
Dye was one of four people to receive a car Tuesday at VFC on Gratiot. Dye said receiving the truck will not only help him get to work, but it’ll allow him to pursue his dream of going to college and obtaining a criminal justice degree.
“It’s a blessing, a big blessing,” Dye said. “To even be selected for this, it’s a miracle.”
The Baltimore-based non-profit, which promotes self-sufficiency for low-income families through independent transportation,selected Detroit as its first expansion location. VFC accepts and repairs donated cars and gives them to pre-qualified families and individuals for as little as $800.
Marty Schwartz, VFC Founder and president, said Dye is exactly the type of individual his organization aims to help.
“We know our families are in tough situations,” Schwartz said. “Having a car makes an impact on our families… .It makes you feel good, it gives you hope and that’s what this program is all about.”
The Detroit launch has been two years in the making, Schwartz said. To qualify, individuals must have a full-time job or job offer, he said. The organization guarantees families with low interest 12-month car loans, allowing them to build credit. The families are also given an orientation course on how to prepare for car ownership.
Since VFC only focuses on providing families with vehicles, Schwartz said, they’ll be responsible for finding their own car insurance.
The nonprofit has partnered with Matrix Human Services, Southwest Solutions and Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency to identify eligible families.
Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, who helped introduce the vehicle recipients, said he believe the VFC program may prove to be vital in a city like Detroit, where many of its residents struggle with finding reliable transportation to work.
“I was very skeptical but after looking into it very carefully, it seemed like Marty had an answer,” Albom said. “The difference between a kid having a job and not having a job is often having a car or not having a car.”
Dye said while he’s thankful the vehicle will alleviate a lot of stress on his life, there’s one other thing he’s looking forward to: Spending more time with his grandchildren.
“I’ll be able to take them places and venture out to show them that there’s more to life than being in the neighborhoods,” he said.