The following is a report from the Elkhart Truth.
While the Salvation Army is known for assisting disaster victims, housing its personnel during catastrophes has become a growing problem.
That’s why Embassy Specialty Vehicles, an Elkhart, Indiana-based mobile commercial and municipal vehicle manufacturer, donated a large disaster relief trailer to the Salvation Army.
Michael Schoeffler, CEO of Embassy, said he got the idea to build the vehicle after visiting the Salvation Army’s annual show in Dallas, Texas, last year where the agency’s executives shared that housing their employees during disasters is a constant struggle.
“So, I came back here and put a team together to come up with a solution for the Salvation Army where they have a nice lightweight long-term vehicle built just for people to sleep in after they go through a long day of disaster relief,” he said.
The $160,000 trailer sleeps 12 people and is equipped with air conditioning, heating and storage. The company handed the Salvation Army the keys to the new trailer on Monday at its building on the city’s northwest side.
“This is something that’s going to go down to the southeast Florida area and the Salvation Army has done a phenomenal job down there, and I felt we needed to do our part to get something to help their people,” Schoeffler said.
Limited housing is an issue during disasters and because of that the Salvation Army’s personnel tries to reduce their footprint in hotels to make more room for disaster survivors, said Bobbi Geery, the Army’s disaster operations and deployment manager for USA Southern Territory.
“When COVID occurred in 2020, one of the things we had to look at was our housing plan for disaster workers,” she said. “What we realized is because disaster survivors were going to be housed more in hotels, we needed to reduce our footprints in hotels.”
The donation also saves the agency a huge expense, Geery said, being that it would typically cost them $130 for a hotel room, which is costly during a six-week deployment.
The trailer augments the agency’s current fleet of about four other bunkhouses around its southern territory totaling 60 beds. The Salvation Army also has travel trailers that house two to three people each.
“We create a huge base camp setting, so we’ll have meals, housing, showers and bathrooms all on-site, so we are fully self-contained during disaster responses,” she said. “We can put about 100 people on our camp base at a time.”
Crafting the new trailer was a community effort.
“There were a lot of vendors that helped us do this and they had ideas for us to come up with a pretty premier product. Elkhart County is pretty innovative in taking care of problems, and this is a perfect example of that,” Schoeffler said.
While the disaster relief trailer will be stationed in Florida, it will be available to deploy across the United States.
“We hope we never have to use this in the sense of a disaster, but if we do, we’ll be prepared to help house our personnel,” Geery said.