Middlebury company retrofitting school buses to help the homeless
MIDDLEBURY, Ind. (WNDU) - Middlebury manufacturer Diamond Trailers and Specialty Vehicles is undertaking a company first: retrofitting old school buses to help people who are experiencing homelessness.
“We, as a company, believe that we’re stewards of our communities. And we said, ‘Yeah, certainly, let’s go ahead and do this,’” said Bob Earley, Director of Sales and Marketing at Diamond.
In collaboration with Infinity Trailer of Elkhart, Diamond Specialty Vehicles has been contracted by the City of Jersey City, N.J., to convert two old school buses into mobile shower and laundry facilities for homeless women and their children.
“The greater dignity that, you know, someone comes out of the shower with, the more they know that we’re here for them and being here for them and having that special warm, safe place is really going to drive that next step or that next decision of that homeless person that wants to do more or wants to do this kind of work,” said Stacey Flanagan, Director of Health and Human Services for the City of Jersey City, N.J.
The all-weather, retrofitted buses have couches, folding tables, a restroom, laundry appliances, and two showers. Each bus has air conditioning and heat. There are emergency escape “patches,” as well, in case something catches fire.
“The buses are set up to do two things. One, it’s self sufficient. So it can operate on its own with its own water, or it can operate with its own electricity,” Earley explained. “We’ve also set it up so that if it’s near someplace where the city wants to utilize its own city water or its own city electricity, we can do that as well.”
Diamond didn’t skip on the interior quality of the renovated school buses.
“We wanted them to have just a sense of dignity in there, and we didn’t want to just go cheap. We want to give them the best experience possible,” said Earley.
Known for furnishing Hollywood studio trailers and trailers for public safety departments, Diamond was grateful to embark on a new yet fulfilling experience.
“It’s the human element,” Earley said. “It’s great to have Hollywood, but they’re not out on the streets. And so we want to make sure that we take care of those people that are on the streets as if they were any other customer. We want to make sure that they have an opportunity to enjoy any comforts of home that we can provide them.”
Earley expects the buses to arrive in Jersey City sometime mid-April.
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