Three vets create mobile van as shelter for homeless vets

Trio plans on seeking funding for 15 mobile shelters from state veterans organizations
Sat, 01/04/2020 - 8:45am

Ed Harmon served his country in the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1972. And 50 years later, he is still serving, this time as an advocate for veterans. Harmon is working on finding temporary shelter for homeless veterans. As an advocate, he has learned 13-15 Maine veterans per night need shelter. Homeless veterans face two challenges. One is finding shelter space, and the second is time-consuming red tape of governmental agencies processing paperwork in finding shelter.

Harmon has devised a plan to alleviate both challenges. He wants to equip 15 single-occupant mobile homes for statewide temporary veterans housing. He bought a $3,380 trailer in New Hampshire and converted it into a mini-mobile home. The mobile shelter includes a bed, eating table, work counter, microwave oven, mini refrigerator, chair, night stand, lights and a heater. Harmon believes a fleet of these mobile shelters will keep homeless vets from sleeping on benches and in their cars.

“There is usually a two- to seven-day waiting period for completing paperwork in finding a place. So, in the meantime, they are still on the streets. This gets them into a warm space.”

Before Harmon began creating a mini-mobile home, he started with forming a team. He drafted fellow veterans John Hargreaves and Arthur Richardson into his service. Hargreaves is also a Vietnam veteran. He served from 1968 to 1969 in the U.S. Army. He is a certified public accountant and is in charge of the mission’s financial plan. Richardson served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 to 1962. He is an electrician who wired the mini-mobile home with electrical and battery power.

“Veterans are near and dear to me,” Harmon said. “I knew I needed John to help with the financial plan, and Art came up and saw what I was doing six weeks ago, and he’s been a part of it ever since.”

It may be a while before this mini-mobile home houses a veteran. Its first mission is for showing various veterans groups in Augusta its practicality. The project needs funding, and Harmon believes seeing a prototype will spur financial support from Maine veterans groups for more mini-mobile homes for statewide use. The trio plans on passing the project to another organization which can handle financing and constructing of a fleet of mobile shelters. 

“Boothbay is too small to handle this type of project. All I wanted to do was build one so people could see what is possible,” Harmon said.

On Jan. 4, Harmon and Hargreaves took the mini-mobile home to Augusta to show Maine Veterans Coordinating Committee.