Spring BYOV Announcement About Changes

A letter from the Executive Director
March 10, 2023

Background: Homes On Wheels Alliance (HOWA) began the “Bring Your Own Vehicle” (BYOV) program in April of 2022 with 24 build projects, then doubling the number of projects in October.  Low-income clients’ vehicles were functionally improved for the mobile lifestyle with solar power systems, insulation, ventilation, and plywood beds, shelving, & flooring.  The event was managed by HOWA staff, but the build projects were designed, completed, and inspected by skilled and vetted volunteers.

“Profound” describes my feelings about the BYOVs upon witnessing so many clients’ lives changed and celebrating such a strong, caring community coming together to serve.

Unexpectedly for 2023, HOWA must alter some of our BYOV event practices.  HOWA cannot afford the increase in liability insurance premiums required to continue exactly as we did last year.  The insurance cost is very high due to carriers’ assessment that volunteers remodeling client-owned vehicles is an extremely high-risk activity that causes the insurance company a huge level of exposure.*

Consequently, to reduce liability risk, we must change some of our practices.  Yet, the BYOV Program at its essence, will remain the same:

  • Low-income grantees will “bring their own vehicles” to the event to make their homes on wheels more functional for the mobile lifestyle.
  • A community of volunteers will continue to serve.
  • A BYOV camp will be a place for comradery, laughter, and relaxation.
  • We will celebrate lives changed and the volunteers who made that happen.

Today I will propose, to the insurance agency, BYOV event changes that will remove high-risk exposures.  We expect to hear from that broker about lower costs next week.  Unfortunately, that means that everyone who is interested in the April event — staff, volunteers, sponsors, and potential clients — must wait.  If we are unable to attain affordable liability insurance in a timely manner, we will delay the next BYOV.

In summary,

  • The BYOV is an extraordinary program that is life-changing for the clients and especially meaningful for the volunteers and staff.
  • HOWA cannot afford the high premiums for liability insurance for some of the practices of the 2022 BYOVs.
  • BYOVs of the future will have the same purpose and many of the same activities, but HOWA volunteers cannot alter client’s vehicles as in the past.
  • HOWA is working to create a modified BYOV event for April, pending liability insurance.

I will keep you informed as we continue down this path.  We are working diligently to stay within our budget while remaining true to HOWA’s Mission – Together we are changing lives, building supportive community, and preventing homelessness one person at a time.

Suanne Carlson
Executive Director
Homes On Wheels Alliance, Inc.

*For those who want some additional details about the insurance aspects of the BYOV:

  • HOWA needs to find a new insurance company because our previous carrier stopped providing insurance in our state of incorporation, Nevada.
  • Since that notification, HOWA staff have followed all available leads to find affordable liability insurance to run the BYOV like we did in 2022.
    • We have contacted, consulted, submitted documentation, and negotiated with dozens of agents, brokers, carriers, and underwriters.
    • For referrals for potential insurance coverage, we have contacted other nonprofits who have volunteers who do somewhat similar work, e.g., Habitat for Humanity.
  • We are currently working with a broker who specializes in nonprofits, again submitting (revised) program documentation, our safety/liability-reduction protocols, HOWA’s zero-claims record, past coverage, etc. He believes he’ll have information for us later next week.