This Bus Changed Their Lives
An ambitious woman from Oregon has been spending time in the wilderness, understanding what it’s like to be homeless. On one fateful day, she stumbled across a derelict school bus that happened to be inhabited by a homeless family.
This inspired her to take on a daunting task – to convert old buses into small, self-sufficient homes for those who need it the most. This woman’s remarkable story began back in 2016 and since then, she has never looked back…
The woman in this story is called Julie and she has worked in TV journalism in the past. Make no mistake about it, she has had a very successful life. With a big family and a busy career, Julie can look back on her life and be very proud of her achievements.
However, she still has so much to offer. In recent times, she has been busy writing her book One Paycheck Away. Part of her research was to experience what it was like to be homeless…
Living With The Homeless
Julie wanted to understand what it was like to be homeless. When she embarked on a road trip in the Summer of 2016, she had no idea just how many people were living on the streets or in the wild.
Also, she didn’t realize how easy it was to become homeless. For the next two years, she lived in tents and worked alongside homeless people across Oregon. Then, on one fateful day, she made a discovery that completely changed her life…
She Found A Bus
During one of her normal walks through an abandoned parking lot, Julie was not surprised to find numerous homeless people going about their everyday lives. It was a sight that she was used to.
However, something strange happened when she stumbled across an old school bus. At first, she did not think too much of it. But as she got closer to the seemingly derelict vehicle, she heard some noises coming from it. Curious, she knocked on the bus door…
A Family Lived Inside It
As Julie knocked on the bus door, the noises from inside continued. Then, after waiting for half a minute, someone opened the door and was friendly enough to let her in.
Julie was shocked to find a family living inside the bus. Even more surprisingly, the two bus-dwelling parents had seven children to their name. She was flabbergasted to see the kids playing, enjoying themselves in what was clearly their home. However, the sight ultimately made her sad…
Julie instantly noticed that the family had torn out the bus seats and laid down wooden floors. Although there was a bathtub and enough mattresses for everyone, Julie was disgusted by the living conditions.
“It was in disarray,” she said. “There was no toilet, shower or kitchen.” Apparently, the father had stopped renovating the place after getting sick. Heartbroken by the conditions that these children had to live in, this ultimately spurred Julie on to devise a plan…
She Had An Idea
It didn’t take long before Julie found many more families living in derelict school buses. It was at this point that she developed an idea – to take old, derelict buses and convert them into liveable, tiny homes.
“They want to have a place to live that is their own, that’s safe — and they want to be mobile, so they can get better jobs,” Julie said. Now that she had an idea, all she needed to do was figure out where to start…
First Bus Is Always The Hardest
It didn’t take too long before Julie was put in touch with someone who had a bus that they wanted to sell on the cheap. Immediately, Julie jumped at the opportunity, paid a cut price for the vehicle, and the conversion was officially underway.
“Just bought our bus! Here she is with her former owner and teacher Robert,” she wrote. Although buying the bus was pretty straightforward, Julie knew that she had a long road ahead of her…
Stripping It Down
The first step of the bus conversion was to strip it down to its “bare bones.” With the help of some DIY experts, Julie took away the seats and hollowed out the bus.
“Our Vehicle for Change has been emptied and getting ready to become a tiny house on wheels,” she said. Now Julie had a blank canvas and was able to give the tiny home whatever structure she pleased. After some planning, Julie and her team started to build a framework…
Building A Framework
Soon enough, Julie knew exactly where she wanted every part of the home to be located. This included the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. Her team started putting up the framework.
“The Big Yellow Bus of Happiness has walls going in!” she said. Now it was a case of bringing in a carpenter to put together the appropriate woodwork. One thing is for sure though; Julie wouldn’t have been able to do all of this by herself…
Little Help From Her Friends
Make no mistake about it, Julie was never going to be able to convert a bunch of school buses into tiny homes without some help. She was obviously going to need more people to pitch in.
Of course, she made sure to have professional help by her side. However, she was also able to gain assistance from some of the people she had encountered during her time on the road. With their help, she could start putting together the kitchen…
Installing The Kitchen
It was just a matter of time before the kitchen in her first school bus-turned-home started to take shape. The first part she had installed was the kitchen counters and soon, an oven followed.
There’s plenty of space for the family to cook on either side of kitchen, as well as space for a dining table. Of course, no home is really a home without a bathroom and a toilet. Thankfully, Julie had the right people on board to make that happen…
The next step Julie took was ensuring that the tiny home was equipped with its very own bathroom and toilet. With the help of plumbers Derrick and Pierre, she was able to make this vision come to life.
“This is the stuff of dreams. Derrick and Pierre in front of Betsy The Wonder Bus,” she said. “Today they installed the toilet, finished the shower and got us ready to hook into sewer. I’m amazed by true heroes like this who volunteer for the public good!”
One surprising source of help that Julie received was from the kids of one of the homeless families she worked with over the last few years. Seeing that they would be the recipients of this home, they had every right to design it as they pleased.
So they decided to paint the bedroom walls as blue skies and white clouds. “Our first baby…Ms. Betsy near completion,” she wrote. “So exciting to be making a home for kids and families.”
After a few months of hard work and persistence, Julie was able to bring the conversion of her school bus to a successful conclusion. It had everything you’d come to expect from a home, such as a bathroom, shower, kitchen, and bedrooms.
Her main goal was to build a home that would qualify as having healthy living conditions for its dwellers, whether they were previously homeless or not. All she had to do now was to find the right candidates for the home.
Soon enough, Julie sent out applications for homeless people who would want to live in her bus-turned-home. According to the application spec, an entire family must apply and they must have at least one child who is under 18 years old.
“It’s got to be families,” Julie said. “Some have toddlers. Kids live on sugar out there. Try surviving with no place to live, eating cold sandwiches, no shower, no quiet place to read. How are you going to grow up with that?”
This Family Needed A Home
One of the families who applied for the bus-turned-home was David and Jennifer’s. Although the former is a substitute teacher and completing his masters, he missed one too many rent deadlines and was forced to vacate his premises with his family.
“What people don’t understand, is that even if someone has a little bit of income, they can end up on the street — even families,” David said. At the time of their application, they were living in a tent…
She Gave Them A Home
After the family applied for the bus-turned-home, Julie knew that this was the right family for this opportunity. On Thanksgiving, David and his family moved into their new home.
Although they offered to give the bus a paint job of their choosing, the family ultimately stuck with yellow, and refer to it as their “Yellow Submarine.” “As a family, we used to always sing, ‘We all live in a Yellow Submarine,'” David said. “And that came true.”
It Changed Their Lives
Ultimately, having a legitimate home has completely changed the way that David and his family live their lives. “It made the little money we had stronger,” he said.
“[The home] took the stress off of our lives. It allows us to breathe for a moment.” David also commented on how the home just opens up, even though it appears to be just a bus on the outside. Now, David can complete his masters with some stability. However, Julie’s work wasn’t over yet…
One Family Wasn’t Enough
Although she was over the moon to help change David’s family’s life forever, Julie knew that there were many more families to give homes to. Her initial hope was to convert another bus into a home each year.
“But if I could raise more money and awareness, there’s no reason why we can’t make a lot more,” she said. With that in mind, it was just a matter of time before Julie built on her success in a profound way…
She Created A Nonprofit
Eventually, Julie put together a nonprofit organization called Vehicles For Changes. With a qualified engineer working with her and help from many other people, Julie seemed to have the basic resources to start helping other homeless families get homes.
According to her, there are over 20,000 homeless children in Oregon alone and they are desperate for some sort of quality shelter. It was just a matter of time before her nonprofit reached the headlines and donations started pouring in…
Eventually, Vehicles For Change’s profile grew so much that anonymous donors were ready to provide significant funding for the project. After Julie wrote a blog about the idea during its early stages, an anonymous family donor from Michigan provided an annual $25,000 grant for the nonprofit for the next five years.
“Every time we need help, it appears. When we need money, someone shows up with a donation,” she said. With many buses-turned-homes under her belt already, Julie has big plans for the future…
Ultimately, Julie hopes to convert at least five buses each year, but as far she is concerned, the sky is the limit for Vehicles For Change. “The idea of getting used, donated buses from schools and then converting them with volunteer labor — it’s very appealing to me,” Julie’s engineer said.
“It’s so community-oriented.” So far, Julie has already been interviewed on numerous news outlets about her nonprofit and she has already changed the lives of so many people.