Recycling recreational vehicles into homes

The San Diego ARC sells donated RVs to economy-minded homebuyers.

by Marlene Gerber –

The Pemberton family, Tim, Justin, Brittnie, and Tanya, found an affordable housing alternatie in a recycled motor home from The Salvation Army [Photo by Joey Scanapico].

The economic concerns of community members recently converged at The Salvation Army’s used vehicle sales lot in San Diego, Calif., producing surprising results.

Ever wonder what happens to those recreational vehicles (RVs) and motor homes that people can’t afford to maintain anymore? Recent news reports noted that high-end repossessions of these vehicles (as well as boats) increased about 15 percent in San Diego in the past year. Some are finding new life, though, providing one solution to the current housing dilemma. The RV has become, for several buyers, home sweet home.

Take the Pembertons: Tim and Tanya and their two children, Brittnie and Justin, now live in a 28-foot motor home they bought from The Salvation Army’s donated vehicle program. Tanya said it’s the only affordable housing they could find$650 a month after falling on hard times.

Becoming whole again
Only a few years ago, Tim was jailed for driving under the influence of alcohol. After being evicted from their home, his family began living on the streets. Captain David Leonard, then chaplain at the San Diego Kroc Corps, found them a place at the Army’s transitional living center for homeless women and children. He also encouraged Tim to enter the adult rehabilitation center (ARC) after leaving jail.

Now a graduate of the program, Tim said, “I have God back in my life.” He and Tanya both have jobs and the family continues to be involved in the church. Brittnie even secured a future scholarship to San Diego State University.

The Pembertons recently joined a family-oriented RV community in El Cajon. The Pembertons, once homeless, view this as a great blessing.

Finding new life
“In the past few months we’ve seen a significant upturn—about 25 percentin donated RVs and motor homes in our downtown lot,” said Captain Grady Brown, administrator of The Salvation Army ARC. “Most new buyers are looking for housing rather than recreation.”

A 40-passenger bus, once featured in a 1970s Clint Eastwood movie and subsequently converted into a luxury motor home, was also donated. The purchaser plans to use it as a guesthouse when not traveling in it.

Brown is pleased that these vehicles are being recycled for other purposes and finding new life. He noted that finding new life is what the ARC program, which benefits from these sales, is all about. Donated vehicles and Salvation Army thrift store merchandise fund the acclaimed long-term rehabilitation program that provides housing, food and clothing for those in recovery.

One might say this is the ultimate recycling program.

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