First Hand History with Arupa Freeman

Published mpadron87 - Mon, 01/28/2013 - 8:15pm

Ten years ago, Arupa helped to create the H.O.M.E van (Homeless Outreach Mobile Effort), a group of volunteers who feed between 200-400 people a week. Hear first hand her life and inspiration.

Arupa Freeman grew up in North Bennington, Vermont. She went to college in Norman, Oklahoma and was involved in the anti-war and civil rights movements there. After various adventures, she ended up working as an editor for McGraw-Hill in Monterey, California.  She felt there had to be more to life than that, so she quit her job and, after being advised by a Tarot reader that she should try moving to Florida, she left behind the world of straight jobs and common sense and went for it.

She arrived in Gainesville in December 1983. She soon got involved with the Acrosstown Repertory Theater, in a variety of jobs, and by the 1990s had become the playwright in residence. One day she was walking her dog along Sweetwater Branch at six in the morning and found a married couple in their seventies, a pregnant woman, and a man in a wheelchair sleeping there. She was shocked to find out that her idea of homeless people as middle-aged male alcoholics who needed to put the cork back in the bottle was wrong. A few years later, after she and her husband resigned from the Acrosstown, she started volunteering at St. Francis House. She volunteered there for the next 8 years.

She became interested in the unsheltered homeless people. The same people year after year, came into St. Francis for day services, many in very poor physical and/or mental health. Where did they sleep? How well were their needs being met? What did they need? In 2002 she and a group of other community activists decided to start a mobile outreach into the unsheltered homeless community of downtown Gainesville, a van that would go out to them, bringing food, clothing, blankets and other necessities of life. They decided that this van mission would be based in friendship, would involve little or no bureaucracy, and would bring people a little of life's fluff - books, games, lipstick, nail polish; in other words, things that bring happiness to people rather than just the bare necessities to stay alive. Much has changed over the years; but the vision of the Home Van as friendly, fluffy and humble has not.

Tue, 01/29/2013 - 7:00pm
Free, donations appreciated