By REBECA KUROPATWA
In Hamilton, Ontario, couple Georgina Rosenberg and Benjy Katz could not help but notice that homelessness is a growing issue – in Hamilton, Toronto, Winnipeg, and many more Canadian cities and beyond.
Benjy owns and operates an auto recycling business in Hamilton. With his and Georgina’s desire to curb homelessness, this past summer, they founded a charity: Homeless Cars.
The goal is to provide a way for Canadians to support local organizations involved in helping to curb homelessness, with people being able to do their part by donating their end-of-life cars.
Although there are several other car donation alternatives, to date, none have focused exclusively on the issue of homelessness – until now.
“My husband and partner is in the auto recycling business,” said Georgina. “So, I learned a lot about his industry, being with him.
“I know you don’t have this in Winnipeg, but in Ontario and a lot of other provinces in Canada, Cars4Kids is the biggest car donation for charity organization. My husband was asked to work with them, pick up cars for them, etc. And, we then found out that 100 percent of the funds raised go to the United States, like New Jersey.
“We just thought, this is ridiculous – that somebody is making a ton of money on Canadians without Canadians knowing this. So, we decided to get into it. We decided that, I personally had now finally in my life had the time and the means to give back to a community that has been great to me.
“Pre-Covid, the homeless situation in Winnipeg, I knew, has been awful for years...and it’s the same in Toronto, and in Hamilton. The situation was awful and it’s just being exacerbated by Covid.”
As the concept of car donation was not something new, they did not need to reinvent the wheel. All they needed to do was to find a recipient that people would want to help by donating/allowing the charity to pick up their unwanted vehicle at no cost, with as little hassle as possible.
There are many reasons why people might choose to donate their unused cars. For example, Georgina said, “estate cars are big. I know that when my father passed away 11 years ago he had a Buick of some sort. I was the only child here, my mother had passed, and I had to do everything to do with his care. And then, he passed away and there were all of the legal and financial details to be done.
“I just couldn’t deal with the car. I took the car, drove it to the nearest mechanic, and said, ‘Here’s a car. Here are the keys. Goodbye.’ I just wanted to get rid of it. I didn’t have time and I didn’t want to do it. So, had this [Homeless Cars] existed then, it would have been an easier process.
“The process is a potential donor can either call us; we have a toll free number, or they can fill out a form on our website. They provide information like their name, address, e-mail, telephone number, pick up address...a little bit of information about the car, its year, make, and model, and if it’s driveable...so, we can let the tow truck driver know.
“Then, we’ll take a car in any way, shape, or form. We get them from the bottom of the barrel that may have been sitting in someone’s driveway for 10-15 years. The car might not start, and might just be scrapped as junk. We get pretty good cars as well – like, estate cars, where someone is just not up for dealing with it.”
Donated cars are picked up within 48 hours, with no contact needed, and are sent to be processed. Once the cars are processed, the donor receives a tax receipt of $400, minimum, depending on the car’s weight and quality.
Once Homeless Cars was up and running, Georgina decided to invite Winnipeg’s Hart and Faith Kaplan, to get involved. In Winnipeg, the Kaplans own and operate Western Scrap Metal, and they were happy to join the Homeless Cars crew by processing cars donated locally.
“Georgina contacted us and, from when we started, which I think was in the middle of October, we’ve bought at least 174,000 pounds of scrap vehicles (donated through Homeless Cars),” said Faith. “We were able to break them down and donate to charity, so far, almost $18,000.”
In Winnipeg, the charity that Homeless Cars supports is Siloam Mission, which is physically located very close to Western Scrap Metal.
“We have always been here - in North Point Douglas,” said Faith. “We’ve had a number of customers, unfortunately, who were themselves homeless.
“Other Winnipeggers feel a certain amount of helplessness, because homelessness is a pervasive problem that never seems to go away. So, this is one way that we can make a significant contribution that is consistent with our business core values, and our personal values in terms of philanthropy...and helping repair the city and community in which we live.
“It’s easy. If you have an old car that you don’t want to be bothered with and you would like to get a tax receipt for it, it’s an easy way for Winnipeggers to painlessly help address the homelessness problem in Winnipeg. So, it is dignified, simple, powerful, and effective.”
For more information or to start your donation process,