Orange Acres Free Guest Ranch
If you have ever heard the YMCA song , you know what we do. We provide free food, hot showers, and a drug and alcohol free safe place to stay, where people feel at home with friends.
People that stay here volunteer to work 2 hours a day cleaning and improving the property. Volunteers built cabins from pallets and recycled building materials, and we maintain a large organic garden to produce food for sharing.
We welcome people regardless of sex, race, religion, financial situation, and sexual orientation. We are not a cult and do not force religion on anyone, but simply do Gods work of helping one another.
Over the past 10 years we have hosted furloughed airline pilots, union plumbers and carpenters, people who lost their homes to foreclosures and unemployment, mentally challenged individuals, people recovering from sickness, cancer, surgeries, and heartbreak, young bands and musicians trying to make their names, painters and artists that need time to make the world more beautiful, people in the process of moving and looking for jobs or housing before college, 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, people who are broken and starting over in life, and people chasing dreams on a tight budget.
We have had domestic abuse survivors, and young families who were turned away from local homeless shelters because they had children, and impressionable young adults who should not be around drug users that frequent other shelters. We have had people who lost their homes to fires, people wrongly charged with crimes who were later proved innocent but still lost everything they owned.
Many are veterans who suffer from PTSD and cannot deal with crowded shelters, or need a place to stay while traveling to VA clinics. We have had people whose cars broke down in front of our driveway, as though God knew we could help them.
We are a free guest ranch, not a homeless shelter. 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. We don't host violent or sexual offenders.
We teach life skills like sharing, cooking, gardening, construction, welding, car repair, and basic cleanliness. We have helped people with rides to healthcare, interviews, jobs, and to get food.
My Name is JeffreyJames Halvorson. In 2008 I bought 8 unzoned acres north of Missoula Montana and made it into this free guest ranch. The property came with a house and a 5,000 square foot commercial tannery building that had a permitted employee kitchen, a shower, and septic system.
Previously, the tannery dumped up to 23,000 gallons a day of rotting animal fat and hide-washing water in 2 sewage ponds on the property, so it is hard to say our use of the property as a free guest ranch would be harmful to the eniviroment or the neighbors, who are a half mile away. There are no environmental or water quality problems raised by our use of the property. We even let the County inspect it.
In 2011, Missoula County filed a lawsuit to limit our use of the property to only 3 bedrooms, to prevent us from providing people free food like a food bank, to prevent us from allowing people to park RVs overnight like Walmart and truck stops do, and to prevent us from letting people camp like forest lands do.
The County dictated we could not have RVs, but could build guest cabins on skids, then later sued us for them. The County required us to connect the house and commercial building to make one big house, sold us a building permit, and then revoked it. The County said we could not have 2 kitchens in one house, even if we did connect the buildings to form one big house.
The problems began when the County approved the septic permits in 1995 and 1997, then verified them to us in 2007 before we bought the property. Later the County admitted the permits had been issued illegally because the prior owner was friend of County employees. We discovered the County had sued us for exactly what it had permitted for the previous owners, just to discriminate against us.
The County told us we needed a bigger septic tank, so we offered to get one. The County told us we would have to move our septic from where they had permitted it improperly, and do ground water testing only 40 feet from where it had been allowed before. So we did, and 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, and the County had been wrong to ever approve a permit on the property. We tried to work with the County, and spent over $1500 in permits which were denied.
We were told "the County cannot continue to allow you to help these people".
We were denied a public defender and a jury trial by the court, and told we would have to pay over a thousand dollars to appeal the ruling, all of which would of been free if we were murders or rapists, but for the crime of helping people we recieved no legal help.
Additionally, during this lawsuit the County put a lien on our property for the last 5 years which prohibited us from refinancing our 7% mortgage at 2.5%, which would have saved us about $50,000 by now.
The longer it took, the more money the County employees made in overtime for harassing us, and the poorer we became, stuck at a higher intrest rate.
We fought the County anyway, to stand up for our property rights, the rights of other property owners, and people helping others.
Thousand of hours of work and 2 days of trial.
After 4 years the judge ruled we won the right to exist. We are not required to have an accommodations license which the County intended to deny us, and were assessed no fines. But sadly, the judge made us remove our free food pantry and our free open kitchen from inside our community center, and limited us to only 6 bedrooms on our 8 acre property.
Now Orange Acres is severely limited in our ability to help others.
Defending our property and rights to help others has cost us thousands of dollars, and we 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 and expand some of the bedrooms so they can have bunkbeds.
While I have funded the day to day operations with my small car lot, trailer sales, and my own savings, for 8 years with less then $900 in total outside donations and no public funding, I can't afford the needed upgrades, let alone continue to fund the $3000 a month to keep Orange Acres open, including interest on the mortgage, the $400-$800 power bills, insurance, food and $300 a month property taxes. 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.
If this Go Fund Me campaign is successful, it will allow us to upgrade the current property and pay off the mortgage. Or, if we raise enough money, we could buy a new property outside of Missoula County where we could have more than 6 bedrooms.
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 please share this on your Facebook page.
Thank you for your continued support. Visit us at our Orange Acres Facebook page and subscribe to "get notifications" to stay up to date with our progress!
Shepherd JeffreyJames Halvorson
We are still helping a few individuals with our allowed 6 bedrooms. While some meals I cook in my home, other meals guests have to cook outside but it can be a real inconvenience in the cold and rain for them. We have an outdoor heated food storage box so canned food does not freeze , fridge, bbq and gas stove, and electric hotplates.
In the summer when the weather is nicer we can allow more people to camp outside (no law against sleeping on the ground or in vehicles). but to expand we need to pay for test hole and install a bigger septic system with permits, which can cost $10,000-30,000.
As for your donations so far:
One guest room got new carpet and a repaint, $100.
We have used $600 worth of concrete to improve our steps and an outdoor area for cooking, we got a couple old fridges free to store food in outside and collected fill for leveling the ground ($40 for gas to pick stuff up), 3 loads of washed gravel for the driveway between the 2 houses ( about $90 with gas to haul it),
$60 for 2 cans of roof sealer which has stopped the community center roof from leaking.
In the bathroom we installed a new faucet and we replaced some leaky plumbing and hoses for $100. We recycled some paint and laid new bathroom floor ($150) and built a pallet wood ceiling ($5 screws) and recycled light fixtures. We have also installed a used dryer and washer as they last about 1 year with guest use.
Our volunteers removed all the beds from the upstairs of the community center as per the courts order, and demolished the inside kitchen, ($10 for capping off the plumbing).
Henry refurbished some metal kitchen cabinets for free with his donated time and materials, which we are very grateful for, for storing our dishes and glasses in outside.
We also got 3 tables and 2 file cabinets and 4 chairs from the UofM surplus sale for putting upstairs for computer lan stations(a steal for about $20 total). We also changed our internet service provider company to 12 meg ($10 more per month but 4x as fast but this is paid by the car lot) but cost us $50 install so it should be more reliable for our guests, and it will fill in the gap as we shut off the satellite tv cause we could no longer afford it.
We got 2 used leather couches at yard sales for $30 total, and 2 fold out cots $30, for the downstairs in case we dont have enough bedrooms.
The old kitchen got a new floor $300, and painted($10 used paint).
I still plan on using every dime of the GoFundMe money for improvements and helping others and I appreciate those who have helped us do so.
Even donating $5 lets you leave a reference for us and encourages others to donate. I wish I could give everyone $5 just to donate because your references are so important in encouraging others to donate. Please like and share on social media and to friends pages that have been blessed with money to donate. Your donations have made a difference in the lives of others and we are very grateful.
We are still on the fence about selling the place and moving somewhere where we can help more people, but sadly all our dreams depend on the money to do so and to be able to sustain operations if we do.