History In The Making….Dignity Buses #3 and #4

Dignity Bus, an original idea created to address the global homeless issue, was created in Vero Beach, FL, by The Source, a non-profit Christian Ministry benefiting the needy and the homeless in Indian River County.

Just over two years ago, The Source launched its “first in the nation,” “one-of-a kind” mobile Dignity Bus which was conceived and designed by Anthony Zorbaugh, the Executive Director of The Source along with Maureen Archer, former Assistant Executive Director, as an emergency overnight shelter for those living in an unsecure, uncomfortable location without a roof over their heads.

A year and a half ago, the second of-its-kind Dignity Bus was built and was initially used seven nights a week in nearby Palm Bay/Brevard County until it moved to its permanent location in Vero Beach in early 2023. Today, 36 homeless individuals are sleeping on these two Dignity Buses 7 nights a week in Vero Beach.

As of July 5, the City Council of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, agreed to purchase a Dignity Bus as a creative way to help homelessness in their community. This purchase makes it the 2nd city in the country to own a Dignity Bus and will house more than half of the homeless population that is currently on the streets of their community. Dignity Bus Rhode Island will be operated daily by the Woonsocket-based nonprofit Community Care Alliance. The Dignity Bus team left Vero Beach with that bus on Monday morning, July 17th to make the 1,300 mile trip to deliver the bus and to train the team that will be operating it. Just prior to their departure, The Source was honored by The City of Vero Beach with a proclamation and a farewell gathering to show the community the new Dignity Bus and to make special prayers for safe travels.

As of July 15, the 4th Dignity Bus, and the second one to go national, is going to Bourbonnais, IL in Kankakee County, located roughly one hour outside of Chicago. Representatives from Fortitude Community Outreach (FCO), who is purchasing and will be operating this new bus, enthusiastically visited The Source to review the non-profit’s organization, tour the current fleet of buses and meet some of the members who sleep on it nightly. They have signed a contract with The Source and a down payment has been made.

The Vero Beach Dignity Bus builders, once they return back from their trip to Rhode Island, will begin making the purchase of the Illinois Dignity Bus and begin the conversion. It is estimated the conversion will take about 5-6 weeks and then delivered to FCO can begin housing their homeless over-night, in what they explain will be their only emergency shelter.

Along with Zorbaugh, a group of Source members, who were previously homeless and formerly skilled in carpentry and construction, are employed by The Source as the “bus builders” and consider the endeavor a project close to their hearts. The Bus conversions include a custom-made interior and exterior, providing 20 secure, climate-controlled, individual sleeping pods with privacy curtains, a USB port, an individual light, a lockable door, a private bathroom facility, under-bus storage, pet pods for companion animals, an onboard overnight security person, and monitored CCTV surveillance.

The Source is currently hearing from cities near and far who are also interested in the concept of Dignity Bus and inquiring into the possibility of having a bus or buses in their community to be able to combat the widespread global housing shortage, due to a marked decrease in the availability of suitable and affordable housing. Agencies in communities as far away as Canada, California and the Mid-West are creatively thinking outside the box to expand on proper sleeping accommodations for those who are in need of a safe night’s sleep.