For $500, this RV is yours!


By Chuck Woodbury
I found this for sale online for $500. You could probably get it for less. It may or may not run. Its description included: “Can be towed by you to your location. Ran and drove to the spot it is currently parked.”

If this looks familiar, it’s because there are thousands of other old and worn ones just like it parked along city streets, in parking lots and in homeless camps across America. Some are parked permanently in ghetto-like RV parks where the rent is a couple hundred dollars a month, maybe even less.

Driving last week along I-5 from central California to Seattle, I saw dozens of RVs like this parked in such places, with others in the middle of vacant lots and on neglected farmlands.

It’s easy, I think, to look at this RV, turn up your nose, and say, “What a piece of junk. I wouldn’t be caught dead in something like that!”

Living on the streets

But think about that for a moment. If you were homeless or almost homeless, and living on the street or in a tent in a homeless camp were your options for housing, then buying or renting (for, say, $50 a week) something like this might be a godsend — a roof over your head, a bed, and a door to lock to keep outsiders away.

I feel sorry for people who live in RVs like this. But I wonder if things went terribly wrong for me, and I lost my income, if I wouldn’t be thankful to have such a place to live. I don’t know any people who live in an RV under these conditions or I would ask for their thoughts. And, frankly, I don’t think there are even a handful of readers who live in such conditions. If any of those few people should read this, I hope they will leave a comment to explain why they live in such a way, and how that came to be.


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Patty Barresi
23 days ago

I also owned an American Clipper motorhome and loved it. I however did not live full time in it. I would love to have this and restore it to the beauty it was. As for hom eless living in it, I’m glad they have a place to sleep covered and a place to use a restroom beside the sidewalk. These issues start with our government not recognizing why people are living this way whether it is their choice or they were forced into it. God bless all of you rving full time by choice or not.

2 months ago

Where can I find these rvs?!?! I think flipping rvs would be a lot of fun. I think the condescending pity was a lot but you’re not wrong. There are plenty of people who would jump at a chance to own a retrofitted tiny home on wheels. There is also an opportunity to help with the housing crisis. To the point of “ghettos”, I think some accountability needs to come into play. Slums are often systematic with the owners not being held to the same standard as those who can’t afford to rent elsewhere. I’m new to the RV world, but I would love to see more community and diversity. Something along the lines of a tenet’s unions that improves the standard of living for everyone.

Susan Stahley
2 months ago

This article made me sad. It is disparaging and judgemental. What privilege it must be to afford an RV and not live in a “ghetto”. This is a poor reflection of what I thought the RV newsletter was about, in stead of empathy this came off as mocking and negative. I am sorry you thought it was a good idea to call people out to “explain why they live this way”

2 months ago
Reply to  Chuck Woodbury

Agree completely with you Chuck. Unfortunately it is folks just like the person who responded the way they did that creates such a disconnect between reality and functioning in a real world. I didn’t think you for a second were being unduly judgmental, in fact you were stating a fact almost everyone would agree with.
Some folks just have circumstances different than others do and you asked them to weigh in, how dam kind of you to offer this valuable space for them to be included.

One day many of them will be as you or I, or remain exactly as they wish to be. They do not need a Mamma and Papa looking out for and speaking for them.

James Charters
2 months ago

I owned an 1976 American Clipper as pictured for 20 years. My wife, I and our four kids traveled in it all over the west. It was one of the first all fiberglass bodies. It was a great motorhome, just badly underpowered with a dodge 360 cut in engine

2 months ago

I’m always glad to see those homeless that at least have an RV of some type. It’s a semblance of home for them, and certainly more secure, safe, and weatherproof than a tent. We’ve had to llive in our TT for up to 5 months at a time and it was much preferred over other options, which sometimes didn’t exist at all.

Douglas Evans
2 months ago

16 yrs ago I was a full time employee of an agency of the Federal Government. I had almost 18 yrs of service, and having a very good income. That all changed when I was forced to expose corruption of my supervisors, and became what is known as a Government whistle-blower.
I was then hit with false accusations from my supervisors, terminated from my employment, and I lost everything.
The only option I had was to pick up an old 5th wheel RV to live in.
Now at age 63, I am living on Social Security with a low fixed income trying to survive, living in a so called low income rv park.
Life is not fair, so please don’t judge others in how they are trying to survive and what they live in.

2 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Evans

Happens to the best of us. I lost my job 2 yrs ago at 61. First time on unemployment. Fortunately I was already shopping for a small motor home. Sold my house and hit the road. Lucky to have already planned for the lifestyle- just happened a couple of yrs sooner than planned.

2 months ago
Reply to  Douglas Evans

If you worked for the Federal govt. for 16 years, you should have become eligible for a delayed pension at age 62, which would be 16 percent of your high-3 annual salary if you were under the FERS retirement system or higher if under CSRS. To be eligible for a pension, you need at least 5 years of creditable service and reached age 62. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you were a contractor working for a federal agency.

Nancy Logan
2 months ago

One of the underlying issues here is the cost of housing. I am currently attempting to move from full time RV living back into a bricks and sticks, but have had to save $4000 and get a co-signer to even begin to talk to a rental agent. With the average cost of a 2 bed house being over $1600 monthly, someone with even a modest income is hard pressed to be able to find housing. Also most require at least two years of rental history. Living full time in an RV does not provide that. I know many folks who belong to a camping club who move from park to park, not because they still enjoy the lifestyle, but because they can’t afford anything else. Not all who live in these RVs are druggies.

Last edited 2 months ago by Nancy Logan
2 months ago

Welcome back to Seattle.

2 months ago

The Denver Post ran an article about an middle-aged couple who lived in just such a motorhome a couple of months ago. The old, distinctively handpainted Class C was often parked on a street near the Chinese restaurant that we frequented before the shut-down. When interviewed, the couple were apparently splitting up because our city had just passed an ordinance banning street parking of RVs due to the frequency of such “homeless” RV street parking. Shortly thereafter, I saw rhe same RV parked on a street in the neighboring city while on my way to the grocery store for my curbside grocery pickup.

2 months ago

I too hope that I am never forced into a lifestyle like that. But our culture constantly loses the war on drugs and we have become complacent with living with irresponsible people. We see homeless camps all through our community, leaving their trash, including used needles, wherever they are allowed to squat. Then our local benevolent agencies try to fix the issue by feeding and bathing them for a day. Makes everyone warm and fuzzy for 24 hours. The next day, it’s back to panhandling with a cardboard sign begging for money and ending with”God Bless”. It’s a pretty sure thing that most of the money those panhandlers get goes to drugs and alcohol. Real help would come by removing these people from that environment and providing drug therapy and emotional help. Not just for a few days but for as long as it takes for them to develop some real pride in themselves and a desire to achieve. Instead of a hand out, they need a hand up.

2 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Dan, I agree to some extent, but feeding them all the drugs they need to survive is a failed model, as is the idea those of us who have put in the time, and fund it all still OWE to keep the destitution happy.
But aside from that, why is it when you come across this, it’s almost always a scene out of a movie where a bomb just decimated the place. Does poverty and filth have to go hand in hand?
Is a bar of soap and some cheap dollar store dish soap in a pail to clean the outside of an RV, beyond the ability of these folks.
Look at scenes from San Fan/Seattle and on an on, why the dump scenes?. Do people have to live like trash because they are poor? I do not think so.

I started my adult life as a teenager sleeping in the back seat of a 1953 Chevy that for the most part was out of gas, but the car was clean, and so was I. Each day got better, and has been for the past 60 years.

2 months ago

Yah gotta do, what yah gotta do! If this is home – Better than sleeping under a bridge or out in the open – and safer too.

2 months ago

Beats a tent! No easy solution. Massive visual pollution.

Niels Willemse
2 months ago

I’m dreaming for years living in such an rv, but i am afraid it will be a dream because i don’t have the money to come to the USA and the things going in the world as we speak.

Hall Robert
2 months ago

Wow, Blast from the past! I’m almost certain the Cl C “junker” discussed is an American Clipper. We owned one late 70’s I recall it was an early generation fiberglass unit. Well built (heavy!), Beautiful fit and finish! As a family of 6, we traveled extensively with it til children got to high school activities. Great memories!!