AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new car care center opened this week, employing formerly homeless technicians to perform oil changes, inspections, detailing and other minor repairs.
Community First! Car Care currently employs eight people in some capacity, all of whom live at the tiny home development in east Travis County for the chronically homeless called Community First! Village.
The jobs afford the techs a chance to earn what Community First! calls a “dignified income.”
“When they were out on the streets — and all these guys were at one time on the streets — they did not receive that respect and they didn’t have that dignity that they have working here,” said the shop’s director, Larry Crawford.
Ron Dorsey appreciates earning a wage at the shop. Wednesday he spent his shift vacuuming out cars while his neighbors and coworkers washed and exteriors and polished rims.
“It also feels good doing a good job for somebody to make them smile,” Dorsey said, laughing. “It makes me smile.”
Dorsey owes a lot to the folks behind Community First! Not only did they provide a job opportunity, they provided a house with a lock where he can be certain his possessions will be there when he gets off work.
“Living under the bridge, you can’t do that,” he said.
The auto repair program is a partnership between Mobile Loaves and Fishes, which operates the village, and Charles Maund Toyota. The dealership collaborated with the the nonprofit to develop the concept, then trained the techs at their shop and even donated all the tools in the new car care center.
The company’s generosity allowed David Sabrsula to get back to work. He was a mechanic for many years, and now in his new role working at Community First! Car Care he’s able to get his hands dirty again and pass along what he’s learned.
“We’ve got people that are waiting here before we even open the doors because they’re ready to come to work,” Sabrsula said.
Dorsey is one of them. He laughs constantly while he talks and works, and says the job has given him a new lease on life.
“And I like it,” he chuckled.
Next, Dorsey plans to save up enough money to buy a car of his own. He won’t need it to get to work, but it’ll give him even more independence than Community First! has afforded him.
“This is such a lovely place,” he said. “I wish everyone could come view it, everyone.”
“Oh, by the way,” he added, looking straight into the camera once he stopped laughing, “we do top-notch jobs on cars. Car care. Top-notch.”
The auto shop is open to the public three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Drivers can make appointments online or simply drive into the development for service.
The car care center joins several other small businesses operating in and out of Community First! Village, including a wood shop and a catering and concessions outfit.