Man Buys and Fixes Up Old Mobile Homes to Help Homeless Folks Re-Establish Their Lives
An Oklahoma man is giving homeless people a new chance by providing them with a place to live while they get back on their feet.
Ryan Laughlin grew up fixing cars and spent 19 years in the RV industry, but only recently started buying old campers, RVs, and mobile homes and revamping them for the working homeless, according to NBC affiliate KFOR and a GoFundMe he created.
The Oklahoma City resident started the selfless project after meeting a man named Chris Butts, who was living out of his Volkswagen Beetle with his dog after raising five children, KFOR reported.
Butts had a job but was struggling to make ends meet, and could not afford to buy or rent a home during that time — leaving Laughlin and his girlfriend with a desire to help him out.
“Sometimes they just need that little hand, that step, and it’s just really started to turn my heart to want to help,” he told KFOR.
To give him that leg up, Laughlin went out and purchased an old mobile home in Oklahoma. He then fixed it up so that the conditions were livable and gave it to Butts so he could live there temporarily while he worked to afford a place of his own.
Butts told KFOR that he was incredibly grateful for the kind gesture, especially after experiencing “desperation” and “depression” while homeless.
“For once, you get the feeling, that a light at the end of the tunnel is not a train about to run you over,” he told the outlet. “You’re struggling hard and the opportunity arises that somebody gives you a place, albeit humble, it is still a place.”
“From there on out it’s an opportunity to launch yourself into what might be better … day, by day, by day,” he continued. “It takes the cold and turns it into a ray of sunshine.”
After seeing how much of an impact his actions had on Butts, Laughlin decided to keep going and help others who may be facing similar situations.
“All of [the homes] are a little rough, but they’re not awful,” he told KFOR, noting that many of the homes have rotted in areas and require tearing down. “I just use what I’ve got and put it together.”
RELATED VIDEO: You Have to Meet the N.Y.C. Trader Who’s Using Music to Help the Homeless
Besides checking the structure of the homes, Laughlin also makes sure their basic utility functions work, their safety features (such as carbon monoxide detectors and escape windows) are properly installed, and that the site of the mobile home is approved by lawyers and considered legal to live.
“They have everything from plumbing to electrical, framing, you name it, it’s all there,” he explains. “It’s a lot of work and that’s basically all we do.”
His work has even inspired Butts, who has since moved out of the mobile home and now lives in his own apartment, to join him with the project.
“It’s everything. I mean it’s honestly literally everything to move from nothing to something,” Butts told KFOR. “If someone is willing to work, to get from underneath where they are, it can be the ticket. It can be the thing that actually changes somebody’s life, and that’s just, well, it’s a Godsend, It’s a blessing.”
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
As for Laughlin, he’d like to grow his project large enough so that he can develop a community for those in need.
“I would like to see a small RV park community of usable trailers that people can come in and use, just like this for this specific thing,” he told KFOR.
Because the Oklahoma resident has reportedly been using his personal money and donations to finance the revamping, he launched a GoFundMe and has asked people to help him with his project.
“I am trying to start this business to focus on those who are losing their home or already lost it and are living in their cars or friends couches,” he wrote, adding that he was in the process of finishing a camper for a woman who recently went through a divorce and has four children but nowhere to live.
“She is working but cannot catch up,” he added. “Help me help others in need.”