Homeless Women and Camper Vans

Touches of home in a van.

When my brother-in-law’s job moved him to Texas, my sister Gail became interested in getting an RV, primarily to use to visit family back home.  She didn’t like the idea of having to stay in dirty motel rooms, possibly being exposed to bedbugs and foot fungi and who-knows-what-else that might encountered in a bedroom and bathroom used by the public.

Also, they would be traveling when Mike was on vacation, so she knew they would be putting in long hours at the wheel.  And since they would be on a strict travel budget, they didn’t want to have to pay high campground fees just to park overnight.  And they didn’t want to have to eat all their meals on the road — another expensive proposition.  And finally, when they got to family’s homes, they didn’t want to have to move in on them, disrupting their household and sleeping arrangements.

So looking for an affordable RV became their priority.  They considered a travel trailer (as used ones can be bought cheaply), but then they would have to buy a pickup truck, and they didn’t need a truck for anything except towing.  It made more sense to buy an inexpensive used cargo van and convert it to their needs.

Exterior of their van

While Gail was researching ways to convert a cargo van to a camper van, she was stunned to discover that there are countless women all over the country who, through loss of their jobs or relationship breakups, were now homeless.  With no place to live, many of them were fixing up old vans to live in.

She found many websites showing how to cheaply convert a van into a mini home on wheels.  But most of them were depressingly ugly, consisting of bed frames made of 2 x 4 lumber with a mattress, and plastic drawers for storage.  So not only were these women homeless, there was no beauty — nothing girly — left in their lives.

Even worse, many of the vans had no toilet or shower facilities, making the women completely dependent on public facilities.

Attractive and supremely functional

She determined to convert her van into a pretty little space with all the comforts, like shower, toilet and kitchen.  And then she would share what she learned with anyone who was interested — whether they are building their first camper or just downsizing from a larger RV.  And maybe her ideas could be an inspiration to a homeless person somewhere, to help add a little beauty or functionality to their van.

To that end, I am working on building a page on this blog that will be permanently linked at the top, to serve as Gail’s guidelines for anyone who is interested in building an attractive, liveable, small RV in a cargo van.  I’m hoping to have the article finished in a day or two.

[On edit – the article From Cargo to Camper Van has now been published.]

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  1. Great looking van. Looking forward to reading all about it….jc


  2. ukulefty

     /  January 4, 2012

    Sounds like a great idea! I’d love to deck out a van of my own one day to tour around in.


  3. That looks cute. When I get a shoestring, I might do something like that! 🙂 I


  4. your van looks very good i just bought 2006 e250 ford van and i am trying to figure out a way to fix it in to something like that. i just retired from being a over thr road truck driver of about40 years. i would like to take my wife and do a little traveling,any tips you have i sure would appericate .


    • Danny, the van belongs to my sister, not to me.

      Did you see the article on her van at the top of this blog? It details pretty much how she did everything. The only thing she would like to add is more insulation in the walls.

      I’ve gutted and rebuilt a small travel trailer before, and my sister and I are constantly discussing ideas for van and camper builds. The main things are insulation, comfortable beds, good ventilation, and a comfortable place to sit and eat, play cards, etc.for those times you are caught in bad weather.

      If you have any specific questions, let me know and I’ll email them to my sister and she can answer them.

      I do know that she had to add ambulance stabilizers to her van to keep it from swaying.

      Wishing you and your wife all the best in your journeys! 🙂


  5. Really enjoyed reading about the conversion and it looks great. Just curious, what is the year and make, and engine size of your sister’s van?


    • Judy, I wrote her and asked her, and here’s her answer:

      “It’s a 2006 Ford E350 extended length van with a “small V8”. I don’t remember or have the paperwork nearby to say exactly what size the engine is. I just remember the mechanic
      saying “small V8.” 😀 HOWEVER, if I could have found one, I would have preferred a Chevy. They have much better steering control and handle a lot easier. Just couldn’t find one. ”

      Also, the handling was so sloppy in her van that she had to have ambulance stabilizers added so it would be safe to drive.


  6. CassWasBornFree

     /  November 19, 2013

    very much want to know how she did the “plumping”


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