The Relief Bus Shuttles Food, Opportunity, and Hope
Juan Galloway, Relief Bus President and a Cranford resident, helps provide relief to the homeless in need.
A problem as complex and heartbreaking as homelessness often appears unsolvable. Fortunately, the benevolent efforts of one organization are making differences in the lives of many.
The Relief Bus, stationed out of Elizabeth, is an outreach of the New York City Relief. The organization travels to New York and New Jersey on a regular basis to provide food, beverages and clothes to the needy. In addition to supplying basic needs, the organization establishes relationships with the homeless by connecting them to various sources, including job training, rehabilitation centers and mental health centers.
According to the Coalition for the Homelessness, more than 40,000 people experienced homelessness in New York City in 2010. An annual survey conducted by social workers and volunteers put New Jersey numbers at 12,569 in 2010. However, volunteers worry that some people might have been unaccounted for, and could double the figure.
“[The homeless] are on the edge of disaster," Juan Galloway, president of the Relief Bus and Cranford resident, said. "[Homelessness’s] number one factor is hopelessness, it’s despair. We can give them hope.” Galloway states that Relief Bus volunteers bring hope to the needy, and lets them know that someone cares and believes in them.
The organization was established in February 1989 by Galloway’s parents, Richard and Dixie Galloway. Originally, they were successful business people in Oklahoma, owning a chain of convenience stores. But Galloway did not believe their success translated to their every day lives. He called his parents, "personally and morally bankrupt," due to their recreational drug use and alcoholism.
However, the Galloways decided to go clean after a young girl was killed during a robbery in one of their stores. The robber, a homeless man, stole a mere $20. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Galloways decided to sell their business and do some missionary trips in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It was during their travels that the Relief Bus was conceived.
The Relief Bus is a modified old school bus that opens to provide soup, rolls, hot chocolate or ice tea, depending on the season. Sometimes, hygiene products and clothing are distributed as well. Volunteers interact with the needy and establish a connection with them. The front of the bus is used an office, where volunteers can assist the homeless any way they can.
“The people in the streets like it,” Galloway said.
The Relief Bus has been recognized by the New York Mets, Toyota and was named as one of the Thousand Points of Light by former President George H. W. Bush. The organization has two buses that go to eight different spots in New York Wednesdays though Saturdays, and reports to Newark on Fridays and Paterson on Saturdays.
“Last year, we served 25,000 services of food and beverages," Galloway said. "We physically helped 17,000 connect to resources. To accomplish that, we had 5,000 volunteer hours." Galloway averages that 250 people are connected to some resource per week, and about 5,000 people are fed per week.
The Relief Bus takes monetary donations through their website, and also look for volunteers for the effort. The organization needs hygiene items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, and deodorant. They accept donations of socks and underwear, mostly men’s.
The Relief Bus is hosting their Relief Bus Banquet for Thursday, June 16th at the Newark Airport Marriot. The reception starts at 6pm with a dinner and awards ceremony following. Featured will be Joe Rogoschwski, a former crack addict who was helped by the organization.
Banquet details and more information about the organization can be found at www.reliefbus.org.