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HomesOnWheelsAlliance@gmail.com

The Benefits of Volunteering

(Lonnie installing insulation and a ceiling in Elizabeth’s van)

Volunteering for HOWA helps nomads in need in many ways but it’s also very rewarding for the volunteers. Studies show that volunteering creates a feeling of well being and accomplishment. Solving problems and interacting with other people can lower stress and stimulate brain activity. Volunteers report feeling healthier and happier when they are involved in helping others. An added benefit for BYOV  and RTR volunteers is the community that is created when we come together in the desert to share the work and fun. Lifelong friendships are made at every gathering.

If you would like to volunteer for a BYOV or RTR event please click HERE. The information will be updated for each new event so check the linked page in the weeks leading up to an event. All skill levels are needed and you can volunteer for a day or several weeks, whatever fits into your schedule.

BYOV April 2022 volunteers share their thoughts:  

Mike: I love helping people. It gives me joy as I travel on the road to see others having joy as they start on the road.
Sarah Meg: I think one of the things that is wonderful about HOWA is that those of us who don’t have enough can get what we need and those of us who have excess can give back.
Rob: Volunteering is the most fun thing to do. It’s not like work at all. It’s fantastic. I wish I had know this earlier in life.
Kika: ...with our love and time we can accomplish anything that we want to.
Cathy: I wanted to give back. What bigger difference can you make than building someone’s bed or giving them power. It’s huge.
Deb: Being part of an experience where you are improving someone’s literal home is magical.
Jeannene: We wanted to come to help because that way they have some hope and I think HOWA gives people a lot of hope.
Bob: I‘m having the time of my life. And when you see the people that you are helping, how happy they are, you go home every night feeling great.
Chelsea: I’m finally at a point in my life that I can come and support some people out here just trying to live this great lifestyle. HOWA and CVRL were really helpful to me.
David: As soon as the BYOV came up I hit the volunteer list because I got help similar to that in times past and I just wanted to pass it on.
Kristy: What drew me to volunteer for HOWA – the desire to give back… because they loaned me a tent…and they really saved me when I needed help so I figure if I can come and contribute in some small way I most certainly will!
Stephen: It’s very humbling to be part of this. I’m hoping other people will be encouraged to volunteer for this event in the future.

These are just a few of the many volunteers who were at the April 2022 BYOV. We are grateful for all of the wonderful volunteers who made the BYOV so successful and also the volunteers who give their time and labor so that we can continue the RTRs and other programs that benefit our fellow nomads. Thank you!

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You Are Amazing!

HOWA’s Emergency Fund recently hit a milestone with $50,000 awarded to over 140 nomads in need! This was only possible because of you. Donating to this very important program helps keep nomads in their homes on wheels by providing awards that cover everything from gas money to get to a job location or the installation of a rebuilt transmission. We also provide high quality tents for nomads who have small vehicles and require more living space.

Emergency fund recipients are vetted and donors can be assured that the fund is used to help nomads in emergency situations. Ninety percent of Emergency Fund contributions directly assist those in need within the mobile community. Ten percent goes toward operating expenses to run the Emergency Fund Program.

Below are a few notes of appreciation from nomads who have been helped through the Emergency Fund.

“...I came across one of Bob’s videos and was sucked into days of watching. I told my husband we could do this. He thought I was crazy, but eventually agreed. We made the decision to use the last of our money to purchase a van and make it our home on wheels.
We found a work camper job and headed out with only a little money in our pockets. Unaware that our van would need repairs. A short time after we arrived at our job the van broke. We were at a loss. What were we going to do? Where would we live? We were stranded. We did not have any money. I remembered Bob mentioned the emergency fund in one of his videos. I was scared to apply at first because Bob always said have repair money! In our case this was not possible. I eventually got the nerve to apply and after some emails and prayers HOWA paid for our van to be repaired. We were able to make it to a better paying workcamper job and save enough to go visit my Mom and daughter before heading to our next job…” “Carol”

“Thank you Bobbi! And please thank the committee! This is so incredibly helpful:raised_hands::smile: You guys are amazing, truly and I cannot thank you enough!”  Heather

“…I also want to ask if you would, wherever/whomever the funds came from, to Please give them (and yourself for all your patience and help), a HUGE and very sincere, Thank you and God Bless You all. I will use this wisely and carefully, and truly appreciate it. There is no way I won’t be at the October gathering, assisting however I can.” Brenda

Thank you to all who donate. You have made the lives of nomad in need better in so many ways! To donate to the Emergency Fund please click HERE.

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HOWA Cleans Up the Desert Near Pahrump

Pahrump, Nevada, has been HOWA’s home base since its inception, so the Nevada desert holds a special place in our hearts. That’s why, during the spring 2022 BYOV (Bring Your Own Vehicle) build in Pahrump, a group of HOWA volunteers took it upon themselves to clean up the desert.

For Jaime Abbas-Restorff, it all started when she drove past some king-size piles of garbage on her way to the build. And we mean that literally—she saw a king-size box spring and a household toilet littering the desert, among other large piles of trash. “The people of Pahrump open up their community to us when we travel here as nomads,” says Jaime. “We want to leave the land better than we found it.”

       

Meanwhile, BYOV volunteer Georgia and HOWA Executive Assistant Phyllis Bickford had the same idea. Independent of Jaime and her co-organizer Jake Holster, they contacted the Pahrump BLM Field Office to ask about collaborating on a cleanup effort. 

At first, the two groups were unaware that they worked separately toward a common goal. But over the course of the month-long build, what began as two small independent cleanup efforts (using volunteers’ pickup trucks to transport garbage) transformed into something much bigger. 

           

Every Friday morning in April was dedicated to cleaning up the BLM land east of Pahrump. Dozens of volunteers participated, despite long days and weeks spent working on vehicle buildouts. The BLM Field office even supplied 30-yard dumpsters to ferry trash to the local dump where it belonged. All HOWA had to do was fill them up.

By the end of April, HOWA volunteers had put in hundreds of hours and picked up over 100 yards of trash.

Nicholas Pay, Pahrump’s BLM Field Manager, shared a hearty thank-you message: “Please pass on my thanks and admiration to the volunteers of your organization that have helped clean up our public lands … The work that you accomplished in a relatively short time is absolutely incredible.”

Jaime even shed a few tears when she was able to admire the beautiful landscape without a pile of trash in sight. ”It made me cry because it looked so different than it did before,” she says.

As nomads, we gratefully use these lands for dispersed camping. Acting as responsible stewards of public land is just one way we can give back to a community and a landscape that does so much for us. Bob Wells, HOWA President, put it this way: “We aren’t the source of the problem, but we want to be part of the solution.”

Here are some tips for picking up litter wherever you find it:

  • Save plastic shopping bags from places like Walmart to pick up trash as you travel. Even picking up a single piece of litter each day adds up over time.
  • Set an example. When others see you cleaning up, they notice your example.
  • Don’t leave it to the states. More and more dispersed camping areas are closing down because state officials are overwhelmed trying to keep the land healthy. State budgets are feeling the squeeze of higher gas prices and other economic shifts just as you are, so don’t assume that state officials will handle cleanup. We can each make a difference.

The cleanup was such a resounding success that we’re already planning to do it again. In October, we will partner with the Pahrump BLM Field Office once again to pick up any trash that accumulates over the summer on our beloved public lands.

Post written by Sarah Kuiken

 

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A Successful First BYOV! Part 2

BYOV (Bring Your Own Vehicle) is HOWA’s newest program, designed to help nomads who do not have the money or expertise to build out their current vehicle. April was a busy month for HOWA volunteers and recipients as everyone pitched in to create comfortable and convenient homes on wheels for the recipients. Some needed simple additions such as portable power stations and suitcase solar panels while others involved installing insulation, wall coverings, plywood floors topped with vinyl sheeting, bed frames, shelving, ceiling fans, and solar systems. Recipients are consulted every step of the way so that the improvements are what they really want and need. If they have the desire and skills they work alongside the volunteers. Read the stories of some of the recipients in Part 1.

More recipients for you to meet!

Jeffery

Jeffery grew up camping so driving his Ford Explorer deep into the Oregon national forests feels like coming home. While he enjoys the quiet of the forest he also spends time helping on his family’s farm during the spring, trimming trees for a friend’s business, and busking with his guitar while visiting towns. Jeffery’s needs are simple but the floor of his Explorer was very uneven and uncomfortable. Several pieces of plywood leveled it out and the addition a hinged section allows access to storage. Jeffery also received a 100W portable solar system to charge his phone, busking amp, and rock tumbler.


Aimee

After three years on the road, Aimee downsized from an extended van to a SUV to get better gas mileage. Aimee hadn’t the time or money to build out the SUV for comfortable living but what she really needed was a way to charge devices and power small appliances so she was thrilled with the 100W portable solar system that she received from HOWA. More improvement came when time slots opened up due to a recipient dropping out. Aimee and the volunteers got to work and cut plywood to cover the SUV floor. After gluing vinyl sheeting onto the plywood they built a bed platform with storage underneath, making a much more organized and functional home for Aimee.


Cathy

Cathy lost the house that she was buying with a friend when they pulled out of the agreement. She had been watching Bob Wells’ videos for several years and knew that moving into her car was a good option to avoid becoming homeless. After six months of car living, Cathy had saved enough to buy a Ram ProMaster, but not enough additional money to build it out. When she arrived at the BYOV build site she already had a bed platform and plenty of storage containers but desperately need solar and a roof vent with a fan to be more comfortable in the summer heat.


Curtis

Curtis had everything that he needed to live off grid in his RV but the generator necessary to power lights and appliances was costing him too much in fuel. He applied for a 200W solar system which now provides free power and he can put the money spent on fuel to better use.

Jimmy

After suffering a series of seizures, Jimmy lost his home. Living with relatives or in a parking lot as part of Sacramento’s Safe Parking program only added to his stress. He began watching Bob Wells videos and he decided that living on BLM land would be a better fit. Since making that decision Jimmy’s health has improved. He received a 100W portable solar system so that he can charge his phone and small appliances without running his truck.

Your donations along with the dedication of the BYOV volunteers has changed the lives of these nomads!

Thank you all who donated, thank you to the volunteers, and thank you to the recipients for allowing HOWA to help! The success of this BYOV means more lives will be changed for the better in the future!

To watch videos of the builds and more click HERE.

If you are a nomad in need click HERE. Applications for the fall 2020 BYOV will be posted in August.

If you wish to volunteer click HERE.

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A Successful First BYOV! Part 1

BYOV (Bring Your Own Vehicle) is HOWA’s newest program, designed to help nomads who do not have the money or expertise to build out their current vehicle. April was a busy month for HOWA volunteers and recipients as everyone pitched in to create comfortable and convenient homes on wheels for the recipients. Some needed simple additions such as portable power stations and suitcase solar panels while others involved installing insulation, wall coverings, plywood floors topped with vinyl sheeting, bed frames, shelving, ceiling fans, and solar systems. Recipients are consulted every step of the way so that the improvements are what they really want and need. If they have the desire and skills they work alongside the volunteers.

Meet some of the recipients!

Cheryl

Cheryl has been a full time nomad for six years, spending most of her time stealth camping in California. Her first home on wheels was a 2015 Ford Transit that she paid to be built out to suit her. Unfortunately the Ford was a lemon and despite years of countless repairs it still wasn’t running properly. A lawyer familiar with vehicle lemon laws got her a settlement so that she could buy new van but there wasn’t money left over to hire someone to make it into a home. Cheryl bought materials piece by piece, piling them in the back of her van as a foundation for her bed while she contemplated the next step. The Bring Your Own Vehicle program was just what she needed! Cheryl’s van received insulation, wall coverings, a bed frame, shelves, a ceiling fan, and a solar system.


Ryan

Las Vegas is hot in the summer but Ryan wanted to be near his teenage son even though his van didn’t have insulation or a fan. An experienced camper, he enjoyed getting away to  boondock in slightly higher and cooler elevations which also gave him the opportunity to meet fellow travelers. Such an encounter led to a discussion of the BYOV program and Ryan decided to fill out an application. He needed solar power to charge his phone plus insulation and a ceiling fan to combat the desert heat. Working along with the volunteers was a rewarding learning experience and gave Ryan the confidence in his abilities to add more improvements to his van as he gets the time and money. 


Elizabeth

Elizabeth’s first Home on Wheels, which she shared with Sadie, was a 1997 Toyota 4Runner. When the engine failed she started looking for a small van and was excited to find a 1996 Astro van. The Astro was in good condition but it needed upgrades that Elizabeth couldn’t afford. She checked off items on the BYOV application form and was approved for all of them! Elizabeth’s van got a 200W solar power system, ceiling fan, ceiling insulation, and a vinyl-covered plywood floor. She’s planning on brightening up the interior by covering the wall insulation with colorful cloth.


To watch videos of the builds and more click HERE.

If you are a nomad in need click HERE. Applications for the fall 2020 BYOV will be posted in August.

If you wish to volunteer click HERE.

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A New Home for Bunny and her Cats

All photos by Bunny La Grand

When Bunny La Grand could no longer afford the rental she had in Portland, Oregon, she moved herself and her three cats into a 4-person tent and hit the road in her minivan, despite the challenges. She has arthritis and needs both knees replaced, which can make setting up and tearing down a tent difficult. But the pandemic hit Bunny hard, and without savings, she knew she needed to reduce her cost of living.

Unfortunately, her original tent wasn’t well-suited to be a full-time home. Her minivan stores her belongings and her livelihood—clothing she sells online and at flea markets—so a tent represents home to Bunny and her cats: privacy, warmth, and safety. Unfortunately, her original tent wasn’t durable enough to handle Quartzsite’s desert winds and sustained damage in a windstorm. She was also afraid to use her propane heater, even when the temperature dipped into the 40s overnight, because the roof was too low. 

So when Bunny heard from a fellow nomad that HOWA provides loaner tents, she was filled with hope. “Having a good tent is crucial to my and my cats’ well-being,” she wrote. “We need a good tent to protect us from the elements, and also wildlife.”

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HOWA provided Bunny with a used 8-person tent donated by one of our generous supporters, and Bunny felt the difference right away. “It is such an upgrade and a blessing for me and my three cats,” she told us. “It’s like a small studio! My heart is bursting with gratitude that someone cared enough to donate this tent and that HOWA was able to assist us.”

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Then, the zipper on the donated tent broke, allowing one of her cats to escape into the desert night. She used safety pins and duct tape as a temporary means of sealing the door—and a laser pointer to reclaim her escaped kitty. For a second time, thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were able to send Bunny a new tent with a working zipper. She now has a fully functional 4-person tent, and has passed the original donation along to another houseless friend in need. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is blgc-768x1024.jpg

Bunny’s ceaseless optimism and gratitude in the face of challenge remind us that there is beauty even in the challenging moments of our lives. When high winds kicked up and threatened to tear the walls of her new home, Bunny wrote, “There was a beautiful full moon.”

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A sincere and heartfelt thanks to the generous supporters who make stories like Bunny’s possible. If you have the means to help nomads in need, please consider donating here

Post written by Sarah Kuiken

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