Cash for Clunkers "Disastrous" for Father Joe

Father Joe estimates the cash for clunkers program has cost his charity almost a half million dollars.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Greg Bledsoe
    The parking lot where Father Joe keeps donated vehicles is practically empty.

    It has been celebrated as a successful stimulation for car dealerships all over the country. This summer's cash for clunkers program resulted in 450,000 used cars being turned in for new ones.

    There may be, however, some unintended victims; charities.

    "They left the charity out of all this," said Father Joe Carroll.

    He says the Saint Vincent De Paul Village relies on car donations for hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue a month.  Instead, he estimates during the three month cash for clunkers program, his organization dropped about $450,000 dollars.

    "The problem is, in this economy, there's no way to make that up."

    The lot where St. Vincent De Paul's stores the donated cars is mostly empty.  One employee said their twice a week auctions used to have about 200 to 300 cars.  Now, it's closer to 60.

    Father Joe also pointed out that by destroying the clunkers turned in, it cuts the supply of used cars on the market, driving up the price for those who can't afford a new car.

    He says all this is happening at a time when donations of all kinds are down, and they're seeing more people who need help.  In fact, he estimates last year they had about 2,500 people a day needing assistance of some kind. This year, the number is closer to 3,300 people a day.

    "So, our customer base went up. Our income went down. There's a crisis coming here," he said.

    Father Joe says the charity has already borrowed about $1 million to cover its payroll and keep programs going, but said it's likely some programs will have to be cut for 2010.

    "I believe we can make it to the end of the year, but next year could be a very, very tough year to recover from this year," he says.

    What would San Diego do without Father Joe?

    "San Diego would go on," he says, "The poor of San Diego would suffer.  And anytime the poorest of your community suffer, the community ultimately suffers."