Before you start reading I hope you watch the video above! Ann's situation is unique, but also far from unusual. At the end of this email I will share an update on how Ann is doing now. I am often asked, "What's the solution to homelessness?" That's a huge question! The reality is that every single situation is unique, every issue is represented by diverse individuals, and any "solution" is going to work for some and not others. In the midst of that, we have found that one of the fastest, cheapest, most substantial changes that can occur in a homeless person's life is getting into a vehicle. Its hard to overstate how huge a move this can be.
A vehicle provides stability and security.
Imagine if you had to keep all of your earthly possessions with you at all times. Every trip anywhere, whether going to work or going to the bathroom, would require making choices about what you were going to do with your stuff. It would be exhausting. You would be left choosing to keep everything with you, to keep it safe, or leaving stuff behind, hoping that it would be there when you got back. Each and every time you were robbed, or simply returned to find your belongings missing, you would have to start over. We talk about modern life being a rat race... this is a hamster wheel attached to a 250hp engine. Even if you stop running, it won't stop spinning.
A vehicle provides a place that can be secured; its not going to go anywhere, and its relatively stable. For someone experiencing homelessness this is a life changing upgrade.
…Unlike a shopping cart or a homeless encampment... would you feel safe?
A vehicle provides mobility and flexibility.
Getting your life back together takes a lot of work. It means making appointments and keeping them; it means getting a job and showing up on time; it means visiting multiple organizations and taking advantage of all of the services you can. A vehicle can make the difference between being unemployed or not, getting medical treatment or not, being able to piece life back together or not. In addition to all of that, the mobility of a vehicle provides flexibility. If a situation goes bad, you can leave. In our area there are still parking lots and businesses that are friendly to homeless neighbors, if they are staying in a vehicle, keeping the law, and not making a mess.
Our vehicleprogram helps our homeless neighbors find a safe, affordable, and (relatively!) reliable vehicle, and we help make sure it stays that way.
Our ideal vehicle is a minivan that can be had for under $2000. We firmly believe that it is important that an individual covers this cost themselves, and is able to do so legally. This requires having a valid driver's license, insurance, and registration. Often this upfront cost is more than someone can pay, and so we set up a payment schedule that fits their needs. Obviously, this is a 0% interest loan, and very flexible!
We also want to make sure that a vehicle won't make a bad situation worse. This takes some discernment, but we always endeavor to help without hurting.
The overwhelming majority of repair work done on these vehicles happens at Ross Cooper's house, and he is doing the labor! You can't beat his prices! Where possible, Ross requires people to pay for any necessary parts but he does the work for free.
Hanging out in the driveway is great time for conversation, Gospel sharing, and fellowship. As everyone knows, the more men trying to fix something the better!
A vehicle is not a "silver bullet" solution for homelessness. In fact, it actually isn't a "solution" at all. A person with a van is still technically homeless. Nevertheless, as we help each person as a person we have the opportunity to recognize how wonderful qualitative changes can be, even when they aren't the ideal. The perfect can't be allowed to be the enemy of the good.
Now the update on Ann's story. After we shot the video above, Ann continued to live in her van for several months before suffering a major medical emergency. She almost died before we could help get her to the ER. Thanks be to God she did not! Through that hospital admission she was able to arrange for residency in an assisted living facility. She has been off of the streets for nearly a year now. She is still a part of our community, and she is still in relationship with our family. Aspects of life continue to be difficult, but overall she is doing great! She still has her van!
Hopefully this leaves some of you inspired to support the VehicleProgram!
There are a few ways this is possible:
1. If you have a suitable vehicle that you would like to donate, let us know!
2. If you have mechanical skills we have a need for your expert help.
3. Donate directly. We budget $1000 a month for this program, which goes towards upfront costs, parts, and maintenance.
That's all for now! Thanks for reading.