Did you know that as of 2020, more than 11,000 veterans living in California were experiencing homelessness?
A local nonprofit, Rescue + Residence (R+R), is working to change that by solving two key problems that stymie veterans who are trying to get back on their feet: an address and mobility.
An address is important because it can be very difficult for a person without a physical address to complete a resume or a job application. Those who join R+R’s program are immediately given a physical address.
As for mobility, many people end up homeless due to the lack of affordable housing in high-cost areas but are unable to move.
What’s R+R’s solution to these issues? Ambulances.
The organization helps participants build a comfortable, safe custom tiny home inside a retired ambulance. Not only does this set them on the road to defining their own form of success, it can literally be taken on the road and moved as the individual pursues a skills-based job of their choosing anywhere in the country.
“Our organization is converting ambulances into homes with those veterans who go through our program,” says R+R founder Daniel Belew. “They design it and then they build it with us. And then they can take that house and drive it to their new life, in a new state, with a new job that they trained with us on. This gives them a fresh, second start on life.”
Belew says there are “a lot of positives” when it comes to converted ambulances, both practical and metaphorical. “When you see an ambulance going down the road, sirens on, lights flashing, what’s it going to go do? It’s going to do that thing we expect ambulances to do: rescue people. And they are going to keep doing that. These ambulances are still rescuing people. They’re still saving people. Now they are rescue residences.”
And they’re affordable: R+R recently purchased a retired ambulance at auction for only $5,000. “You can get these because they’re at government auctions a lot of times, and they’re just looking to get back some of the cost of the vehicle because they’re already purchasing new ones for a pretty good price,” Belew says.
To help Rescue + Residence in its mission to restore dignity to those who have served our country, the organization will be holding its inaugural fundraiser, Desert jAMBOree 2023, Dec. 8-10 at 21 Arrows Ranch in Thermal.
The weekend-long event will host multiple bands on each day. There will also be performances from stand-up comedians, campground game competitions, auctions, guest speakers, food trucks, vehicle conversion vendors and even a karaoke contest.
There will also be several converted ambulances for guests to tour to help them realize what a viable option this is for someone to call home.
Tickets for the event are available now at givebutter.com/desertjamboree2023.
In addition to housing, Rescue + Residence gives back in other ways. Two months ago, Belew and a group of R+R Marine volunteers joined forces with the National Charity League to support ongoing cleanup efforts in the Panorama neighborhood of Cathedral City, which was devastated by mudflow during Tropical Storm Hilary.
“My wife is a part of the National Charity League for Palm Springs,” Belew said at the time, “and they are well established in the region and have a ton of connections with other nonprofits in need. But sometimes the work needed isn’t well matched to high school or middle school girls, so when the opportunity came for us to help shovel out thousands of pounds of dirt from people’s yards and homes, I was able to get active duty servicemembers to help.”
To learn more about Rescue + Residence visit rescueresidence.org.
As the philanthropy editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and locals who give back. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.