Some lead a nomadic life by choice – others by chance. Just as the wanderlust spirit can feed the soul for those who are able to set off on adventures, the flip-side is that the lack of a stable residence can result in recurrent relocations and the looming risk of eviction. When this instability comes not by choice, anxiety and despair are often the results. Sometimes the high cost of rent leaves families choosing between rent and food, transportation or medical costs.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a house on wheels and roam the country by choice, you can give hope and a home to someone in need through the Habitat for Humanity Care-A-Vanners program.
Danielle and Lucius Herrmann are passionate about the opportunity and work they’ve undertaken in retirement. While they use their 2010 Airstream Interstate and 1992 29-foot Classic for recreation, they also participate in Habitat build projects across the country and commit to at least two build trips each year.
“For people who don’t have a stable place to live, these projects potentially change the outcome of their life,” Lucius said, remembering a time when they volunteered with the Junior Achievement program in the schools. “When we were in the kindergarten class each year for a week, it was surprising how many kids would come in and had just moved.”
Helping end the upheaval caused by housing instability in families’ lives is what makes the Habitat mission one the Herrmanns identify with. Habitat homeowners invest sweat equity and build their dreams from the ground up, constructing their own home alongside volunteers.
“To have a stable home environment and know you’re going to the same place to have a meal and time with your family and get up the next morning – that adds to the potential positive outcome in someone’s life,” Lucius commented.
Launching from the Atlanta, Georgia metro area, the Herrmanns have worked on Habitat builds in seven different states.
“It’s just really a great way to meet people and do something good at the same time,” Danielle offered. “You’re traveling – but you’re traveling with a purpose.”
While each build site is unique because of building codes or a home’s layout, Danielle noted anyone can contribute.
“That’s the other thing about Habitat – they are great,” Danielle added. “You don’t have to have any skills and if you’re uncomfortable with something they work with you. They will find something else for you to do.”
Going on the roof isn’t a particular favorite for either Danielle or Lucius, although they’ve done it.
Danielle likes to install hurricane clips, which attach the roof truss to the wall.? She can remember the exact moment she learned how to do it, and the volunteer who taught her how. Today, she even has her own palm-nailer that she takes on builds.
For Lucius, there isn’t one thing he enjoys more than another, but working on the framing of the home can be emotional.
“You see something happen pretty quickly,” he described. “The first day it’s just a slab of concrete and by day two or three there’s walls up and the beginnings of rooms. It’s very tangible.”
The Herrmanns were always tent campers until Lucius’s mom passed and his dad was attempting to settle the estate and find a home for their Airstream trailer. Danielle and Lucius agreed to take it and that’s how they ended up with their first Airstream.
“They were great people – very civic minded,” Danielle said. “I think they would be really happy that the Airstream goes out on Habitat builds.”
Having both a touring coach and a trailer, the Herrmanns appreciate them both but if they had to pick just one it would be the Interstate.
“We can do all kinds of sight seeing all day long and the next place we stop is just down the road,” Lucius said, about the ease of pulling off for the night in the Interstate. “And then we can do it again and just stop in the next place.”
Avid Airstreamers, Lucius and Danielle are always surprised that they don’t see more Airstreamers on the Care-A-Vanner Habitat sites.
“We’ve been trying to get Airstreamers more involved too,” Lucius said. “Usually we are one of a few or the only Airstream on a build.”
The 2020 Wally Byam Airstream International Rally is in Loveland, Colorado and the Herrmanns are working to arrange a habitat project in conjunction with the rally. They hope folks will chose to volunteer for one day or a few days during their visit.
“Go participate for a day or to and see what it’s all about,” Lucius encouraged. “Maybe you’ll like it and try a Care-A-Vanner build sometime.”
With more than 250 Care-A-Vanner build sites across the country each year your home on wheels can be a vehicle to build the American dream.