Journalist Is Turning School Buses Into Fully Equipped Houses for the Homeless

School bus converted into fully functional home for homeless families in Oregon 5 photos
School bus has a cocktail of snow and gravitySchool bus has a cocktail of snow and gravitySchool bus has a cocktail of snow and gravitySchool bus has a cocktail of snow and gravity
A journalist from Oregon is doing her best to help out with the issue of homelessness in school children, by offering them and their families a place to live – as long as they don’t mind living small.
Julie Akins is based in Ashland, Oregon, and became aware of the issue in August 2016, while doing research for a book. That’s when she met for the first time a family living in an abandoned school bus. As she told NBC5 in an interview last year, it didn’t have any grade of comfort whatsoever and the mother ended up losing all her children because she couldn’t provide for them a safe place to live.

She didn’t want other families to have to go through this so, 18 months ago, she founded the charity Vehicles for Changes. They take retired school buses (either sold or donated to them by school districts after their 12-year rotation is over) and convert them into fully functional mobile homes. They come with kitchen and tile shower, bunk beds, heater and, perhaps just as important, they are still in working order so they can be driven to another state if need be.

The buses are also solar-powered and “honor Mother Earth.” They are parked legally at an RV park, with rent covered for the first 6 months by the charity group. Families living inside can lease them and are offered the chance to buy them after a while, at a convenient price.

These buses offer stability and independence, dignity and comfort, Akins says. They also prevent homeless families with working parents from splitting up and children from entering foster car.

Alex Daniell is a partner on this project. He has been building tiny houses for the homeless in Oregon through Opportunity Village and Emerald Village, and he says Akins’ plan is brilliant – and could be a very successful one, with help from the community.

“The end product results from keeping a family from breaking apart,” Daniell tells People Magazine. “My experience with the homeless is: if the families don’t get split apart, and the kids stay in school, they don’t end up on the street. Once somebody’s been on the street for a while, it’s hard to find their way back in.”

Right now, Akins aims to make one “Skoolie” per year, but her goal for the future is to raise enough money through donations and contributions to take it to 5 a year.

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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