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How Loren runs a busy charity and lives car-free

Loren runs the Missing Persons Advocacy Network and rents out two properties on Airbnb: all without owning a car.

Shannon Barker

When Loren needed to deliver 100,000 coffee cups to 20 cafes across Melbourne, she was glad to have plenty of Uber Carshare cars nearby and on hand. The delivery was part of a campaign her charity, Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN), ran for Missing Persons Week in 2018.

Loren started MPAN after her brother, Dan, went missing. Through that experience, Loren realised there was a real lack of resources for the families of missing people. She launched MPAN to help meet this need, by providing advice and support to families, and encouraging individuals in the community to engage with the issue.

“It’s been a challenge to convey to Australians that missing persons is not just a police issue. It’s something the community can and should be involved with,” says Loren. “We’re trying to shake that association that it has with police and crime, because people going missing is usually nothing to do with crime. It’s often to do with mental illness or misadventure. There are any number of reasons people go missing.”

MPAN runs a number of campaigns to engage the public on the issue by humanising people who are long-term missing. One of their ongoing initiatives, The Unmissables, partners families with artists to bring their loved one into a space where the public can connect with them, for example through murals, street art or songs.

“We take it beyond just their name and date of birth: it’s about what their passions are, what roles they played in their families and the impact their absence has on the people around them.”

The coffee cup campaign used some of the artworks created through The Unmissables project and printed them on coffee cups. This was a modern take on the old milk carton campaigns of the 80s and 90s, when the faces and details of missing children were printed on milk cartons in the United States.

The coffee cups were loaded into Uber Carshare cars and delivered to Melbourne’s top 20 cafes to use for the week. The response was so positive – from the families, artists and cafes – that MPAN will be doing it again for Missing Persons Week this year.

“We want to keep mainstreaming the issue so we don’t switch off and leave it to the police. The police don’t have the resources to deal with it: 100 people are reported missing every day,” says Loren. “We want to educate the public on how they can be more involved and lessen the burden on the families.”

Having a number of Uber Carshare hire cars in Melbourne to call on at short notice helped make the coffee cup deliveries run smoothly. The MPAN team were waiting on a number of logistical details to fall into place and working with uncertain timeframes, so couldn’t book in a time with a traditional hire car company. Having the flexibility to open the Uber Carshare app a book a car at short notice made accessing delivery vehicles much more straightforward.

This flexibility works well for Loren outside her work with MPAN as well. Living in inner-city Melbourne, Loren doesn’t have the space or the need to own a car and has chosen to live car-free instead.

“I don’t want to own things that I only need every so often – and a car definitely falls into that category,” Loren says. “After high school I lived overseas for a few years and got used to taking trains everywhere. Melbourne has a great public transport network, so I’m reliant on that.”

Loren also enjoys using her legs to get around, as she knows exactly how long it will take her to walk somewhere and she doesn’t need to worry about traffic or parking – not to mention the benefits walking has for the environment and her mental and physical health.

“There are a lot of pros that go with not owning a car, but every now and then it makes more sense to drive and that’s why the Uber Carshare system works so well.”

Loren borrows cars to visit her parents in Geelong, or to run errands for the two properties she rents out on Airbnb.

“I’ve been a big believer in the sharing economy from day one. I think I’m Melbourne’s longest-serving Airbnb host! Airbnb was the reason I was able to start my charity. After Dan went missing I didn’t go back to work, but I was able to keep paying my bills because I was hosting on Airbnb, and that’s continued for eight and a half years.”

Being an Airbnb host requires frequent runs to Bunnings to pick up the supplies Loren needs to fix or replace something that’s broken, and borrowing a car is the easiest way to get that done.

While there are a couple of hire car depots not far from Loren’s home, there are 10 or 15 Uber Carshare cars even closer, and the convenience of making last minute bookings is a life-saver for Loren.

“I got a hire car about a year ago and I think I was in there for nearly an hour doing paperwork. That doesn’t suit my lifestyle. I’m so busy with MPAN so the convenience of booking a car and getting straight in is great for me.”

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