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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Hope on wheels’: The Salvation Army cuts the ribbon on new homeless outreach and transportation vans

Maj. Ken Perine of the Salvation Army, second from right, talks with Mayor Nadine Woodward, second from left; his wife, Jenni Perine, third from left; and state Rep. Jenny Graham, right; about the new vans that will go into use by the Salvation Army to offer services to homeless people and transport them to shelters. Maj. Perine showed the new vans to the media during a news conference Wednesday at the Salvation Army headquarters at Indiana and Lidgerwood in Spokane.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
By Elena Perry The Spokesman-Review

The Salvation Army on Wednesday unveiled a pair of vans to ferry homeless people from camps and public places to shelters in an attempt to get more people “from the streets to the sheets.”

One van will be used for transportation, seating 12 with room for some belongings. The other is a resource van that seats three and is equipped with computers, working with Spokane’s Community Management Information System database that connects social service providers.

Operating 24/7, drivers will patrol popular areas and park in camps in Spokane, Spokane Valley and Cheney, offering food, medicine, coats and other resources. Use of the vans is voluntary, but Maj. Ken Perine, Salvation Army corps officer, hopes that offering these supplies will urge those unhoused to seek shelter, with the goal of moving to transitional and eventually permanent housing.

“(The vans) go out where the homeless are and bring hope, love, respect and resources, and opportunities to exit homelessness,” Perine said. “So when they are sick and tired of being sick and tired, the Salvation Army is there.”

Passengers can choose a shelter to be driven to, not limited to those the Salvation Army operates.

Purchased with donations, the vans cost around $150,000. The city-funded Trent Resource and Assistance Center will pay for operation expenses, including van maintenance and employee pay.

The vans are new to the Salvation Army, but the idea has been around since the late 19th century, when the group would drive a hay wagon around New York City to pick up alcoholics, encouraging recovery. The modern-day Salvation Army of Spokane has been driving a two-passenger minivan.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward and State Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, spoke at the ribbon cutting.

“The operators at TRAC really are that first step: coming off of the street, under a roof, with a bed, three meals a day and surrounded by wraparound services that can then stabilize them to the next level of transitional housing,” Woodward said.

“Talk about hope on wheels,” Graham said.