Medford, Ore. — A local non-profit is working to end homelessness one school bus at a time. ‘Forever Homes, Vehicles for Change’ is renovating retired buses into fully functioning houses on wheels.
“Every time I think about the bus, I just start smiling,” Founder and local homeless advocate Julie Akins said. “I just started trying to think of ways that I could help get kids under a roof, and honestly I had a dream about a bus, and I woke up the next day, and started researching, what I learned later is called a skoolie.”
The skoolie the group is working on is their first. Once renovated, the buses will have water tanks, solar power, a kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms and a living space.
“It’s an idea that’s just catching on like wildfire,” Leo Gorcey, Director of Development said. “Buses can go anywhere from 20 to 30 years, so you’ve got buses that are being retired at 12 years who have all these years of life left on them.”
To move in, applicants will need a driver’s license, a job, and a child. The group is focusing its efforts on housing homeless children and their families. Gorcey noted compared to a typical family home, it’s much more cost effective.
“You can convert the bus into a really nice living space for about $15- to $18,000.”
For a dollar lease per month, plus rent for an RV park, struggling families can save for a different home. They will also have the option to buy the bus they’re in with $200 monthly payments. While the process is long and laborious, Akins said the work will more than payoff.
“Whatever it takes to get kids under a roof and get a home cooked meal, and have the kind of childhood that all of us want kids to have, the kind of childhood we had,” Akins said. “There’s no reason not to provide that.”
Contractor Dan Wahpepah is working with Cody Armond on the labor.
“This is not your regular platform framing house that you’re doing,” Wahpepah said. “You’re screwing into aluminum, you have to think of the heat, the thermal barriers.”
When the skoolie is finished, the group plans to take it on the road and educate local schools, churches and organizations about homelessness and available options. The first family to move into the bus will be selected by Christmas. For more information about the project, click here.