DEL CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – “I just use what I’ve got and put it together,” said Oklahoma native Ryan Laughlin.
Laughlin says he grew up fixing cars and building stuff.
He’s always loved working with his hands.
“It was all rotted out underneath these windows, so I had to tear everything out on the lower end down there,” he said, pointing to an old camper.
His newest endeavor brings some new meaning to his life.
Laughlin and his girlfriend were inspired by, their now family friend, Chris Butts.
Butts tells KFOR he found himself homeless after raising five kids.
He was living with his dog out of his small Volkswagen Beetle.
“Desperation, depression, there’s a lot of things that go on in your mind,” said Butts.
However, Butts had a job and was trying to get back on his feet.
All he lacked was a place to live.
That is until he met Laughlin.
“For once, you get the feeling, that a light at the end of the tunnel is not a train about to run you over,” said Butts.
Laughlin spends his time buying and collecting old campers, RVs, or any mobile home he can find.
“All of them are a little rough, but they’re not awful,” said Laughlin.
His plan is to fix them up and make them a safe space for what he calls the working homeless.
People just like Butts, who need a temporary place to live while they can save enough money to get a place of their own.
“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,” said Butts. “It takes the cold and turns it into a ray of sunshine.”
“Sometimes they just need that little hand, that step, and it’s just really started to turn my heart to want to help these people,” said Laughlin.
Fixing these old campers up isn’t always the most glamorous project.
“They have everything from plumbing to electrical, framing, you name it, it’s all there. It’s a lot of work and that’s basically all we do,” said Laughlin.
He also has to make sure everything is running safely.
He has to check things like carbon monoxide detectors, propane checks, escape windows, and more.
Despite all the work, after seeing how it helped one person, he was hooked on the idea that this could grow into something massive.
“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 said.
Butts adding, it’s this one small thing that could completely turn someone’s life around.
“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,” Butts said.
Butts now lives in his own apartment.
He spends his days helping Laughlin fix up the campers to pay it forward to somebody that may find themselves in a situation just like he did.
“It’s everything. I mean it’s honestly literally everything to move from nothing to something,” said Butts.
Laughlin also mentioned he is working with lawyers to make sure everything is running correctly.
He’s in the beginning phases of the bigger project, but says he always makes sure the place where the campers end up is legal.
Laughlin spends personal money and receives donations to make this project happen.
If you’d like to help, you can donate here.
He also says he could always use supply donations of wood or anything else you can use in a camper.
You can reach out to Laughlin on Facebook for more information on how to help.