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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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Bring Your Own Vehicle

The price of minivans skyrocketed recently making it difficult to find suitable vehicles for the minivan builds so, in order to serve more nomads in need, HOWA started the BYOV program. Recipients, who must be full-time nomads and demonstrate financial need, will camp in their own vehicles on BLM land with fellow recipients and volunteers. Each project with planning, building, and final finish will take three days. More than one project can be selected and will be completed given the constraints of time, skilled volunteers, and funding. The program will take place in Pahrump, Nevada in the Spring and Fall.

At this time, each “Build Slot” is a single, well-defined, project. They are:

Bed platform
Shelving

Solar power system

Floor

Ceiling vent/fan

Insulated walls

Insulated ceiling

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If you are a full-time nomad in need, unable to afford even the materials to build out your vehicle, please read this page. The next BYOV will take place in October 2022 in Pahrump, Nevada. We look forward to working on many rigs, making them safe and secure homes on wheels.

If you want to volunteer to help with the builds please click HERE.

 

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Bob’s Van Sweepstakes Fundraiser

$112,955 raised to help nomads in need! Thank you donors!

Bob Wells, president of HOWA, bought an ambulance in the spring of 2021 and generously donated his 2015 GMC Savana 2500 Cargo Van to HOWA to be used as a fundraiser. The van came with many extra features including a bed platform, shelves, high top, roof vent/fan, tinted windows, 400W of solar panels, four golf cart batteries, 2000W inverter, hot water kit, 600W microwave, and aluminum telescoping ladder.

Bob also donated two more items to raise funds to assist the nomadic community.

With Bluetti’s blessing, Bob donated a AC200MAX and B230 module to HOWA after he did a video review on it. To provide charging for the Bluetti power station, Bob purchased and donated a Bluetti SP200 200W Solar Panel.

Bob also reviewed and donated an ACOPower 42qt Solar LiON Fridge/Freezer with Built-In Battery & 90W Solar Panel for a fundraiser.

Sweepstakes tickets for all of these items were available online on the HOWA Rallyup page and could be bought in person at the WRTR and RTR. The drawings were held on February 02, 2022 at 2:00 pm. Congratulations to the winners!

  • DeAnn H of Oregon – winner of Bob’s Van
  • Kristine R of Texas – winner of Bluetti AC200MAX
  • Rick K of California – winner of ACOPower LiON Fridge/Freezer

The three sweepstakes fundraisers were a huge success, raising almost $113,000 to be used to fund HOWA’s programs. Thank you to all who bought tickets! Together we are changing lives.

 

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Part 4 – Journey of an Astro Van

Time for an update on Barbara and the Astro van! After waving goodbye to all of the volunteers at the HOWA van build in October 2021, Barbara began her journey as a nomad by visiting friends and boondocking in the forests of Arizona before heading to Quartzsite to attend the RTRs in Jan 2022. Originally Barbara had planned to volunteer at the RTRs but realized that she needed the information provided at the seminars and decided to hold off on volunteering until 2023 when she would be a seasoned nomad with a year of experience.

Barbara lived in Ecuador for eight years before returning to the US in July 2021. Without a vehicle or the funds to buy one, she thought a nomadic life wasn’t possible but receiving the Astro van has opened a whole world. Every morning she wakes up comfortable and happy in the little home that she’s altered to fit her needs which included buying a tent that serves as a storage area, sitting room, and kitchen. One of the surprise experiences for Barbara at the RTRs was the free pile where she found the exact items that she was missing. Thank you to everyone who donated their extra stuff to the free pile!

Part 1,  Part 2,  Part 3

If you are a nomad in need please visit the HOWA Programs page.

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Rachele, an RTRs Volunteer

Rachele, Saturday, and Andrea, a fellow volunteer

Like many first-time RTR attendees, Rachele discovered the RTRs while searching the internet for the solution to a problem – where to buy an inexpensive but reliable car for her younger son. What she found instead was a YouTube video on the Cheap RV Living channel featuring Suanne Carlson living in her Prius. The concept was new to Rachele but intriguing so she gave her car to her son and bought a 20+-year-old Toyota Sienna with a good motor and transmission. After getting work done on the car to make it safe and dependable, Rachele was ready for her first RTRs.

In Rachele’s own words:

“I came to the WRTR/RTR with no expectations except helping, in any way needed, the organization that had helped put the skip back in my step.


I set a goal for myself after my son’s (Rachele’s older son) last cancer treatment, to start living life now and stop waiting for tomorrow! Goal 1, after I got my van running was to volunteer for the fabulous organization that gave me the encouragement to start living again, not just surviving for tomorrow.


I arrived at the volunteer camp so nervous I parked a wash away as to not disturb anyone. I showed up my first morning nervous as hell not knowing a soul. Spent the days with amazing people, bonded together by the joy of building community.  I found myself quite emotional leaving with tears of joy because I felt as if I found my tribe!!!”

Thank you Rachele for volunteering and helping make life better for all of the attendees!

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