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.
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.
Aaron talks to KARK‘s Matt Mosler about helping the homeless get out of the cold.
What a generous heart this young man has! Way to go, Alex! Thank you!
On Dec. 29, Alex Stafford turned 9, but instead of gifts, he turned his attention to others. At his birthday party, Alex collected donations for The Van, a local organization targeting homelessness in Arkansas.
Alex said, “My birthday is like 4 days after Christmas, so I decided I didn’t need that many presents.”
Alex’s mother, Michelle added, “He came to us and said instead of presents this year, I’d like to give blankets and gloves to the homeless.”
He collected 31 blankets, 33 pairs of socks, 6 hats, 9 pairs of shoes, a bag of clothes, and $120.
Alex said, “Cause I wanted to give to the homeless, I felt like I had much more than them.”
Aaron Reddin from The Van said, “Its really humbling to just experience a child wanting to help and wanting to give like that, because you know it is so pure.”
As the temperatures dive below freezing this weekend, Alex’s gifts will help keep people warm.
Reddin said, “I do look forward to letting them (homeless) know, this came from a nine year old who decided he had enough and wanted to help.”
As he left Alex was able to sign his name on The Van’s van, allow his legacy to stay with this organization.
Reddin said Alex’s legacy will go further with his giving heart, “It just assures them, you know, that our community cares today, and clearly it will care tomorrow when the children of our community are stepping up and helping.”
Kid President campaigns for a homeless women’s facility
Posted: Nov 01, 2013 4:54 PM CST Updated: Nov 01, 2013 5:43 PM CST
By Katherina Yancy, Reporter
(KATV) Little Rock – An Arkansas non-profit group is on a $150,000 mission to help homeless mothers get themselves and their kids off the streets. The One Inc. has acquired land to build a new safe house for women and children, but the group still needs help with materials and the building process.
Women needing a bed at shelters are on a waiting list. Then you have organizations for abused women or a substance treatment facility, but this will be the first retreat specifically for homeless women.
In a web video, Robby Novak says, “I think it is time we did something awesome.” He is the pint sized Kid President who has gone viral with motivational videos.
He recently chose to support The One Inc. In the video he explains, “We want to build a special place for homeless women in Little Rock, Arkansas.”
With the help of the 10-year old, the organization has raised about $20,000. Aaron Reddin says, “That is from all over the world. It has been incredible.” He smiles, “Places I have never heard of in the world.”
Reddin is not ready to disclose the location of the lot donated by Habitat for Humanity. He says the hardest part is identifying homeless mothers because they live in fear that their kids will be placed in the state’s care. “We have found several pregnant women living out in the woods, living where ever they can. I think we can get them off the streets pretty rapidly once we get this going.”
The One Inc. needs $150,000 for materials and volunteers will build the house. “It will be two bedrooms on each side and then a common area and kitchen in the middle.” Each room will have two sets of bunk beds. Reddin looks at the lot, “Anything we can do to try and make that path out easier, smoother and safer. That is what we want to do.”
Kid President says it best, “This is not just a web show, we are changing the world yall.”
Habitat for Humanity donated two other lots. They plan to use them to grow food for the homeless.
Thank you KARK for this great story! See the full piece on their website here.
Homeless Advocates Discuss Need for Womens’ Shelter
09/02/2013 11:53 PM
09/02/2013 11:57 PM
Volunteers helping the homeless in Central Arkansas are now tackling a major safety issue, emergency housing for homeless women.
Aaron Reddin works to provide resources and food to area homeless with his organization, The One Inc. Reddin says over the last two years he’s had a tough time finding emergency housing for women on the streets.
“The number of female beds in town are very limited, there are some, but if we find a woman late at night and if she doesn’t have proper ID, we may not be able to get her in a shelter even if there is a bed,” says Reddin.
To help, Reddin is in the beginning stages of building a four bedroom shelter. While he’s not ready to disclose the location just yet, our crew visited the lot. It’s one of three lots donated by Habitat for Humanity.
Reddin says it will be a place to provide temporary housing for women who may need a few days to get an ID or to find a shelter fitting for them and their children.
Reddin says he sees too many women with too few options.
“The streets are mean and when you’re out there , you see women go through terrible stuff and I’ve seen women do some terrible things to come up with the $7 it takes to stay in a shelter and I don’t know, I just can’t take it,” he says.
Right now Reddin has the land, an architect helping with plans, and a contractor on standby while he begins working on fundraising. Reddin says he believes the community will pitch in to help with free labor, once he raises the money and begins building.
Thanks for the great piece FOX 16 News!
Updated: 10/11 9:42 am Published: 10/09 7:51 pm
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR — Aaron Reddin has come a long way. His nonprofit called The One, Inc. is expanding its farm in North Little Rock, and his fleet of vans criss-cross Arkansas bringing clothes and food to the homeless.
“We got tired of seeing people just have to eat junk,” Reddin says.
He has a passion for helping the least fortunate among us, a drive born from his own past.
As a teenager, Reddin fell heavy into drugs.
“Started doing meth and few years of that took me straight down the pipe,” he said. “Found myself at 20 basically roaming, living out of my car, shooting up with dirty needles.”
Reddin credits his faith and decision to join the Marines with helping get him through those difficult times.
After he righted his life, Reddin wanted to make a difference.
“When I was trying to get clean, I wanted help from folks who had been there, who understood exactly what I was feeling and what I was going through and what I was battling,” he said.
That’s why it’s not hard for Reddin to call the homeless people he serves “friends.”
After all, not long ago, he was riding down the same path.
Recently Sync Weekly did a great story on The Field, you can read the story on their website here…
efforts to help the homeless and impoverished, which once included him handing out food and supplies from his Yaris. Then there was The Van. Then there were more vans and more cities with vans. Now there’s The Field.
As dark storm clouds promise the first rain in what seems like ages, high winds kick up the finely tilled dirt of The Field, filling shoes and blinding eyes out on North Little Rock’s Faulkner Lake Road. Reddin can barely contain his excitement, not just over the imminent and much-needed downpour but over the day’s haul of squash — The Field’s “first fruits.”
The idea here isn’t exactly rocket science. The plan is to use The Field’s two acres (and potentially five more next door, if dreams come true) to grow fresh produce to be handed out to the homeless. The plan is twofold, though. First, it provides food for those without any. Second, it also provides work for those without any, because those benefiting from the field often will also be those working it.
“With this whole thing, the options are really endless,” said Reddin as he led a tour of the grounds, pointing out rows of green beans, purple hull peas, okra, corn, squash, tomatoes, peppers and … well, something. He’s not a gardener. But he does know that over a small rise toward the back of the property there are watermelons.
“Imagine you live outside here in Arkansas. And it’s summer and it’s hot as hell. Now imagine someone rolls up to give you a fresh-grown watermelon that’s been on ice overnight,” said Reddin. “It’s not going to fix every problem in your life, but it’s sure going to help you forget how crappy it is for just a few minutes.”
Maybe that’s enough, at least for some. But as Reddin has taken his relief efforts directly to the homeless — whom he calls friends, not homeless — over the years, rolling The Van into woods and camps and hand-delivering food or clothes or offering a ride or a shower, it’s not uncommon for the first question to be about a job.
“I would say 50 percent of the people on the street, the first thing they ask is do you know where I can find some work,” Reddin said. “Now I can say, yeah, dude, I do. You want work? Come on.”
At least, it’ll get to that point. The Field, which is a cooperative effort between Reddin’s The One Inc. and The People Tree Inc., is still in the building phase right now, and missed out on much of the spring planting season. Long-term plans call for hoop houses and irrigation for year-round planting and harvest. Chicken coops will offer eggs and fertilizer. A tree on the edge of the property already has a bee colony living in it, and one project will be enticing them to move into a hive box that’s going to be built. Even a tree house will offer shelter and a wage for a night watchman. There’s room at the front of the property for produce stands and maybe a farmers market — or, if not on site, then in conjunction with one of the many operating in the metro. Workers can grow what they need and sell the rest. The larger fields can support the charity efforts. A seed bank could generate some extra income. Those other five acres, if they can be purchased, could support livestock. Reddin’s ideas go on and on.
“There’s no model that I know of that we’re trying to follow in what we do, so every day is a new day,” he said.
Though without a model, Reddin is not without expectations. He noted a news article he read about a one-acre urban farm in Illinois producing three million pounds of food in a year. The Field has twice that much land already.
“If we can pull six million pounds of food a year from this, there’s no reason we can’t whack into that nasty number we have here in Arkansas that says we’ve got more hungry kids here than in a lot of other places,” he said.
That it’s all possible is thanks to a handful of partners. Among them are Reddin’s co-organizers of The Field, a nonprofit called The People Tree, which has a hand in a number of community gardens in the area. They’re the ones who know how and what to plant, said Reddin.
“I have not a green thumb one,” he said.
The land itself, and its associated buildings, came by way of a friend who leased it for a business that didn’t work out. A 15,000-square-foot warehouse on site was slowly given over to storage for The One’s outreach and the tons of donated clothing it receives. Eventually, the building’s space was converted into useful rooms for laundry and a community room, but there’s also room for classes on growing and planting. A grant being pursued by People Tree would fund the installation of a commercial kitchen. Another will fund irrigation systems. Even though plans are in place to harvest rainwater and nearby standing water (it’s been tested and approved for watering), Reddin said the water bill is the most daunting obstacle right now.
But help may also come from unexpected quarters, too. Reddin said he’d been contacted out of the blue by producers representing P. Allen Smith, well known locally and nationally for his gardening programs. What may develop is yet to be determined.
“Our producers have inquired about this project, but we have not decided to participate,” wrote Mimi San Pedro, chief operating and marketing officer for P. Allen Smith, in an email. Still, the helping hands, wherever they come from, are most welcome, said Reddin.
“The only things I’m confidently able to do are see, drive and break things,” he said. “I broke a water hose the other day. How does that even happen?”
A tractor is the answer. That, and a failing on the “seeing” and “driving” part.
But despite the Green Acres-like moments, the hundreds of volunteer hours already put into The Field are going to pay off in a long-term goal that many people may not realize is a problem. Among the homeless and impoverished, where having food is a priority, the quality of the food is often overlooked. A study by Harvard Medical School in Boston and the University of Oxford released last month indicated that obesity is becoming the new face of malnutrition among the homeless, owing in part to reliance on cheap foods with higher fat and sugar content and lack of access to fresh, quality food. It predicts as much as a third of the U.S. homeless population is obese.
“This study highlights the importance of the quality, as well as the quantity, of food that the homeless are consuming,” study co-author Paul Montgomery, a professor of psycho-social interventions at the University of Oxford, said in a news release. “Interventions aimed at reducing obesity in the homeless, such as improving nutritional standards in shelters or educational efforts at clinical sites, should be considered in light of these findings.”
Reddin hopes to do just that by offering something other than leftovers and “bad food.” The answer, he said, is to bring the hungry directly to the source.
“I’d never realized, but it’s food. Just food. It’s not hard,” he said. “You put crap in the ground, and crap comes up. It just makes sense.”
Local News Network KATV recently did a story on our latest project, The Field.
You can read the story below or on the KATV Website…
(KATV) A Little Rock man has made it his goal to help the homeless, but he also wants them to learn basic skills to help themselves. For about a decade, Aaron Reddin has been on a mission to help those who need help getting their lives together, something he knows about all to well.
Behind warehouses on Faulkner Lake Road in North Little Rock, two acre of land has been turned into “the field”. The idea is simple, plant it, water it, watch it grow and then give it away to anyone in need.
Aaron Reddin says, “We realized we had a lot of homeless friends eating junk, junk being served to them with good intentions but they just didn’t have access to any good food. We always knew we wanted to do a garden, we just didn’t know how.”
Reddin has partnered with The People Tree Inc, non-profit community cultivators. “They know what needs to go where, what needs to be planted, what should be beside what, what needs this much sun. I don’t know any of that.”
They’re growing squash, corn, tomatoes, okra, watermelon, peppers, sweet potatoes, peas, green beans and pumpkins.
Volunteer, Lisa Harrison calls The Field, a miracle. “To know that God gave us the ground and that we can just put a little work into it and give something back to the people in need. It’s just a good feeling, a really good feeling.”
Through research, they estimate when all two acres of The Field produces fruits and vegetables, they can grow about six-millions of pound of food a year. Reddin adds, “It is simple. I’ve been pounding my head thinking why didn’t we do this sooner. Why do we have kids all over the world dying of starvation everyday and we’re complaining about hunger in the world… food comes out of the ground.”
Chickens will soon arrive and provide eggs. Their next goal is to educate kids and homeless on getting a green thumb and profit off selling produce at farmers markets. “All of Central Arkansas, they’re great. We have folks out here we know, we have folks out here we’ve never met. Folks come out and support it and… it’s going to make me cry if I talk about it so I’m just grateful to our community, we are a great community.”