We have new purple The Van t-shirts that will specifically support our women’s house! Just in time for summer. $20 plus shipping. Best we can tell, this batch is pretty true to size. Getcha one!
Folks kept asking for something other than yellow, so, we finally did it! Getcha one of these The Van hoodies (or all of them) because they’re comfy, cool, and help us stay out there helping our unsheltered neighbors. Order securely through PayPal below and we’ll get it in the mail to you as fast as we can. If they’re a hit, we’ll have more ordered immediately and pump them out as fast as we can. Thanks everyone!
Preparing for Winter: Creating a Comprehensive Emergency Shelter Plan for our Unsheltered Homeless Neighbors
There has been a lot of talk over the last 2-3 years about a legitimate plan to get people off the streets when inclement weather hits Arkansas. There’s been talk amongst LR city officials, churches, and other homeless service agencies and organizations. Yet winter is close again and nothing has been done. So a few of us are acting. An effort to create an actual plan is being made by The Van in partnership with Canvas Community Church, The 10/20 Project, and DRB Legacy Outreach, Inc. – SOAR Network.
This is a huge undertaking and we’re going to need a lot of help to pull it off. Here are some ways that we are looking for people to help:
- SITES – Locations to provide temporary shelter when inclement winter weather hits central Arkansas. Ideally, we need a place in SWLR and a place in downtown that could commit to opening their doors. We are strongly encouraging churches to consider partnering in this way. We’re partnering with all kinds of churches so don’t be afraid to join the party! First Pres Argenta has committed to taking in families and Levy Church of Christ has committed to help special needs during times of non-inclement weather. We are working to have everything worked out so that all you would need to do is open the doors. We’d cover the rest, all the way to cleanup when the weather clears. If interested, contact us by clicking here.
- STAFFING – Volunteers to work shifts at site locations, cook meals, provide security, and process orders of needs in our warehouse. If you’d like to get on an email list that we will use to contact volunteers when the time comes and as we prepare, shoot us an email with your info and how you’d like to help at firstname.lastname@example.org
- FOOD/MEALS – We need to start stockpiling food now. #10 cans of veggies, noodles, rice, dry beans, frozen meats. Food trucks that would be willing to brave the elements and come help us with some meals would be amazing. Restaurants that would like to pitch in would also be huge. Everything given will be tax deductible. You can drop off donations at our warehouse (8016 Faulkner Lake Rd, NLR 72117) or contact us by clicking here.
- DRIVES – One really huge way that ANYONE can help is to organize a drive. We are going to be needing tons of in-donations such as cots, blankets, pillows, pillow cases, socks, gloves, underwear, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, coats, chap stick, etc. Hit up your family/friends/coworkers/church/club/or anyone else. Throw a party! Organize a fundraiser. Then just give us a shout and we’ll work out getting the stuff to the warehouse. Easiest way anyone can help.
- FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS – If you’d like to help monetarily to cover fuel or any other specific needs that arise through this process, you can do that by clicking here. Donations are tax deductible.
Thank you to everyone for always supporting this work. This community is so amazing and really knows how to show people love.
As many of you know, we’ve been working to create a safe place for unsheltered homeless women/mothers in Central Arkansas. We’re pleased to tell you that this work has finally paid off. Thank you to THV for telling the story.
Not only did we just put our first family in the women’s house, but we are also working with several other local organizations/churches to create a comprehensive emergency warming shelter plan for central Arkansas (more info coming on this soon). These two things combined will greatly increase our need for “stuff” in the coming months. The biggest way you can help us right now is to start a drive. Get your group, church, club, family, or business to start a drive. Throw a party and ask your guests to bring items. Whatever you can think of. This effort has always been very grassroots and this is one way we’ve always been able to get a lot of the community involved. We have a big warehouse and we’re going to be working hard to get it filled up and ready with things like:
cleaning supplies (bleach, pine sol, etc.)
canned food items (pop top preferred)
socks, regular and wool (new preferred)
underwear (must be new)
Thank you so much to everyone who supports this work. YOU make it all possible. If you decide to get a drive organized, let us know by using the contact section here on the website so that we can make arrangements to get the stuff to the warehouse once your drive ends. If you’d simply like to donate on your own, feel free to drop things off at our warehouse, at 8016 Faulkner Lake Rd, North Little Rock, AR 72117
If you’d like to contribute monetarily, you can do that by clicking here.
Just like our t-shirts, but without sleeves. Just the way it should be in the summertime. These are high quality, American Apparel unisex tanks. Show off your guns and your support for The Van! Order yours below for 20 bucks plus shipping, and help us stay out there serving our unsheltered homeless neighbors.
Unfortunately we could only get them in sizes S, M, L, XL. Really sorry we don’t have bigger sizes. We’re not happy about that either.
Mission Machine striving to wipe out homelessness
By Tammy Garrett
SEARCY — What started as a simple act of kindness has blossomed into what Seth Simmons describes as an effort to “wipe out homelessness one person at a time.” White County residents might have seen Simmons driving around Searcy in his Mission Machine, a florescent-green van that carries food, clothing and dignity to those without a permanent place to call home.
In 2006, Simmons was a student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway when he heard about a coat drive for the homeless that had been put together by Aaron Reddin, and Simmons decided to get involved.
“We put out the word and collected a ton of coats. After that, we started doing drives every year for coats and different things, and it kept getting bigger and bigger,” he said.
The two friends ended up going their separate ways: Reddin moved to Little Rock, and Simmons located in Searcy. When a van was donated to Reddin, he used it to go out in search of homeless people in camps and take them whatever supplies they needed, including water and ice to help them stay hydrated in the often brutal Arkansas summers.
Later, when a motorcycle racer associated with Kawasaki donated a 1983 green Chevrolet van to Simmons, it became the Mission Machine that he operates today.
The fleet of vans has grown to include VanLanta in Atlanta and the Russ Bus in Russellville, all of which are under the umbrella of The One Inc., a nonprofit charity that also includes a large warehouse and garden in Sherwood to benefit the homeless. Members of the group hope they can add vans for Houston and Memphis in the near future. Funds that are received by The One are used to buy gas for the vans and items to distribute, such as sleeping bags, clothing and water.
Simmons said the organization’s efforts focus on finding camps of homeless people who don’t fit the criteria to get into shelters or simply prefer to set up camp on their own. He was quick to point out that tangible items aren’t always what the people need the most.
“Jesus shocked people with the mission to free the oppressed and build up the brokenhearted,” Simmons said. “We are trying to reach out and find people and help restore their dignity. We can’t get his whole mission done, but we have found a part of it that we are passionate about.”
Simmons gets assistance in the endeavor from his wife, Jenny, whom Simmons described as a comforting presence for the homeless people the couple encounter; Jimmy Cooper, a nontraditional college student at Harding University; and area volunteers.
On select Saturdays, the Mission Machine squad holds Loads of Love events, when the group takes over a laundromat in the county for three hours and keeps the machines humming for the homeless of the area to wash their clothes. While there, those who need them can pick up supplies, such as a fresh set of clothes and hygiene supplies, and eat a hot meal that Simmons cooks on a home-built smoker he received as a donation.
At one of the Loads of Love events, Simmons said, he found out about a couple who were living in an abandoned camper and needed to wash their bedding. He went out to meet the husband and wife in the camper, which was in the middle of an overgrown field. They had no running water or electricity, and there were holes in the roof and floor.
Simmons convinced the couple to come back to the laundromat with him to wash their clothes, and before they left, Simmons connected with a local woman who was willing to let the couple move the camper to her property and have it hooked up to utilities for temporary living. Simmons described the man as a “handy, hardworking dude” who was struggling with substance abuse.
“He was remorseful and ready to get out of that lifestyle,” Simmons said. “We ended up helping him find a job, and in a couple of months, we were helping them move into an apartment. He has stayed clean and still has that job, and now they are living in a house. There are so many reasons the homeless end up in the situations they’re in, whether it’s not having any connections or just needing someone to reach out to them.”
Simmons said it is important to him that the volunteers he works with get to know the people they are helping. For example, at Loads of Love, besides feeding coins into machines and folding clothes, volunteers provide a kind ear to listen to people and give support.
“It’s our goal to hear their life stories before they leave. They need to get that connection and know that someone cares about what’s going on in their lives. That can break so many walls down and help them get their dignity back, which is the No. 1 thing we are trying to do,” Simmons said.
For more information on how to donate or volunteer with the Mission Machine, Simmons said a list of what is needed is available on the Mission Machine Facebook page and on Twitter.