Hempstead Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. stands with the village's new...

Hempstead Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. stands with the village's new community response vehicle. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Village officials recently unveiled a community response vehicle to help residents displaced by fires or experiencing other crises.

The vehicle, which cost $130,000 and was funded by federal American Rescue Plan money, is part of a new community response team village officials formed to engage residents and address local needs. Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. has planned the initiative since his 2021 election. 

“It's not if, it’s when something happens in our community,” Hobbs said. “We wanted to have the tools in place to be able to meet the needs of our community.” 

The attention-grabbing red truck, which has slowly been sent out on calls since the village purchased it in March, is outfitted with supplies to help people in crisis, such as water, blankets, pillows, a heavy-duty winch and flares. The vehicle is housed in a village firehouse and manned by Fire Capt. Jeff Spencer and former Fire Chief Roger Faulk.

The goal is to increase the village’s self-reliance to help residents in need. The vehicle is designed to respond to major tragedies, like a mass shooting or an apartment fire that displaces many residents. It can also be used for intervention services when calling the police or the fire department isn’t needed, the mayor said. 

“I think that this is a way to have our residents more engaged and that feeling of community,” Hobbs said. 

Hobbs, who is a volunteer fire department member, said he has seen firsthand the resources people need after being displaced by a fire. While the Red Cross and the Salvation Army can help with long-term needs, village responders are now equipped to offer immediate assistance, whether it is a blanket or a water bottle. 

“After fires, I always stick around to help people,” said Spencer, who has been a firefighter for 28 years. “You get a grasp on what they need.” 

Hobbs said an apartment building on Terrace Avenue recently had its power shut off during a planned three-hour outage, so officials dispatched the truck to provide lighting and a place for residents to charge their phones. The traditional response would have been to fill the block with police to monitor the block and direct traffic, but with the vehicle lighting up the block, fewer officers were needed, the mayor said. 

“But then it's a big police presence and that sort of makes people uncomfortable, but instead of doing that, we were able to send the OEM truck,” Hobbs said. “It was a defuser in that situation.”

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