We don’t just have one type of people we help. In our 8 years we have hosted furloughed airline pilots, union plumbers and carpenters, people that lost their homes to foreclosures and unemployment, mentally challenged individuals, people recovering from sickness, cancer, surgeries, and heartbreak, young bands and music artists trying to make their names, painters and artists that needed time to make the world more beautiful, people moving to town to look for jobs or housing before collage started, grad students doing cancer cure research at the U of M, volunteers building a nearby Buddhist temple, young entrepreneurs traveling and marketing their businesses, athletes riding their bicycles or walking across the country, domestic abuse survivors, and young families that were turned away from local homeless shelters because they had children. We have had people that have lost their homes to fires, people wrongly charged with crimes they were later proved innocent of but still lost everything they owned. Many are veterans who cant deal with crowded shelters because of PTSD, or need a place to stay while traveling to VA clinics, at risk homeless youths that shouldn't be thrown in with drug dealers and convicted criminals at other shelters, and people chasing their dreams on a tight budget, some are mentally broken and starting over in life. We have even had people whose cars broke down right in front of our driveway with no place to go, as if God knew if they broke down further down the road we would have not been there to help them. We have had buses full of 20 hippie kids stop in for the night, and while you might not agree with everyone’s ideals and life choices they still are someones daughter or son. I have received phone calls from parents who have thanked me for taking care of their young adult children and keeping them safe with food to eat, and a place to get clean. We have internet and computers where they can email home, look for jobs and housing, a free free food pantry and garden, and free clothing closet.
We are a free guest ranch, not a homeless shelter. The big difference is we don’t host people who routinely spend all their money on drugs and alcohol and then want to let others pay for their food and place to stay, and we don’t host people on probation, or violent and sexual offenders. We welcome people regardless of their sex, race, religion, financial situation, and sexual orientation. We are not a cult and do not force religion on anyone, but strive to do Gods work of helping each other.
We also teach life skills to many that never had a proper home, from sharing, cooking, tools gardening, construction, welding, car repair, basic cleanliness. We have helped people with rides to healthcare, interviews and jobs, and to get food.
My Name is JeffreyJames Halvorson and in 2008 I bought 8 unzoned acres north of Missoula Montana. The property has a house and a 5000 square feet commercial tannery building that had an employee kitchen and shower. It was dumping up to 23,000 gallons a day of rotting animal fat and hide washing water in 2 sewage ponds on the property. I made it into a free guest ranch for young adults and veterans, where people could escape the pressures of everyday rat race and simply just be with free basic food and shelter, and enjoy the simple things in life.
The people that stayed here volunteered to work 2 hours a day cleaning and improving the property, Together we built cabins from pallets and recycled building materials, and have a large organic garden where we grow food to share and give away. We were swarmed during the economic crash of 2009, I started letting people camp in the building and on the property.
We became a close family, but in 2011 Missoula County began discriminating against us and sued us for daily fines totaling over a million dollars for helping people for free, telling us: we could only have 3 bedrooms, we could not give people free food like the foodbank does, we could not let people park RVs overnight like walmart and truckstops do, could not let people camp like forest lands do, we could build guest cabins on skids but could not have rvs (then sued us for it), we could connect our buildings and make one big house (told us to, sold us a permit, then revoked it), and we could not have 2 kitchens in one house even if we connected the buildings to form one big house.
There is no environmental or water quality problems, we even let the County inspect our property. The problem is the County illegally approved the permits in 1995 and 1997, then verified them to us in 2007 before we bought it, then they sued us exactly for what they permitted just to discriminate against us. They told us we needed a bigger septic tank so we offered to get one, then they told us we would have to move our septic from where they had permitted it twice and do ground water testing only 40 feet from where it had been allowed before. Then after 12 months and $560 in testing they decided that because our neighbor floods his land for 2 weeks in the summer to water his hay, that our land is un-buildable and unsuitable for a septic system which they had permitted twice before. We tried to work with the County, and spent over $1500 in permits. Additionally during this lawsuit the county put a lien on our property for the last 5 years which has prohibited us from refinancing our 7% mortgage at 2.5%, which would have saved us about $30,000 by now.
After 4 years the judge ruled we won the right to exist, are not required to have an accommodations license which the County intended to deny, and no fines. But sadly the judge is making us remove our free food pantry and remove our free open kitchen from our community center, and limiting us to only 6 bedrooms on our 8 acre property, while denying our septic expansion permits. Without outside help Orange Acres will close this fall or be severely limited in our ability to help others.
Defending our property and rights to help others has cost us thousands of dollars, and devalued the property which I have invested over $150,000 dollars into, and still owe $200,000 on our mortgage. The buildings are in need of major repairs and we will have to reconfigure the home so we can allow access to the house kitchen for our guests. We would like to build 4 larger bedrooms that can fit 2 beds each to replace 4 small ones we have that wont. While I have funded the day to day operations with my small car lot and trailer sales and out of my own savings, for 8 years with less then $900 in total outside donations and no public funding, I have been slowly losing money and can't afford the needed upgrades, let alone continue to fund the monthly $1000 in interest on the mortgage, the $400-$800 power bills, insurance, food and $300 a month property taxes. Even with our all volunteer staff it costs nearly $3000 a month to keep Orange Acres open. If we sold all of my cars I would still not have enough to even pay off half the mortgage and then would have no way to sustain the costs of daily operations.
While our goal of $250,000 or more may seem like a lot, it would create a space for 10-20 people. A new homeless shelter in Missoula was just built for $5 million and was designed for only 100 persons and has already reached capacity.
Here is our Go Fund Me campaign. If is successful, it will allow us to upgrade the current property and pay off the mortgage, or if we can raise enough money buy a new property outside of Missoula County where we could have more than 6 bedrooms.
Here are a few rough estimates of our goals, mostly to buy materials and permits as a lot of the work we can do ourselves but some we are required to hire approved contractors (electrical).
We need $25,000 to reconfigure the house for sharing the kitchen, and add a new living room (the old will be our new dining room) and add one bedroom and bathroom.
An additional $15,000 would help us by adding 3 large bedrooms to replace 3 of our very small bedrooms and cabins, with rooms that could have 2 beds in them.
An additional $10,000 would help us replace the 30 year old wood roofing with metal roofing (the current one only leaks when it rains, not on sunny days!) and cover the new additions.
Up to $10,000 to form a non profit and pay an accountant, so we can issue tax deductible receipts for future donations to support day to day operations. (Though without a mortgage to pay we would be mostly self sustaining).
If we raise an additional $200,000 we could pay off our $1400 a month 7 % mortgage, or help us move outside Missoula County where we would be free of future harassment by the County if they deny our building permits again. A donation of a new property or home for us would also be great. (Even a 1% or 2% low interest loan to payoff the mortgage would also help us as we could pay down the principle faster.)
No donation is too small, even if it is $5, it allows you to leave us a comment supporting us, especially if you have stayed at Orange Acres before or know someone who we have helped. If you only have $10 please don't send us $5, but share this on your facebook page.
Thank you for your continued support and subscribe and "get notifications" to stay up to date with our progress on our facebook page!
Shepherd JeffreyJames Halvorson
Visit our Go Fund me page here
Here is our petition from our friend asking for help, thank you to all that signed it , we gave it to the Judge during the trial. https://www.change.org/p/help-orange-acres