By Chuck Woodbury
I saw it coming, RVing as it is today. That was 20 years ago.
What I envisioned was not simply bigger and better RVs, although anyone who paid attention could see that there were more gizmos and gadgets each passing year. No. What I envisioned (among other things) was an ever-increasing number of old, beat-up RVs.
I knew the day would come when some of those RVs would be either hauled to junkyards or purchased as shelters for next to nothing by our poorest citizens. That day has come.
Twenty years ago, our nation’s homeless problem paled in comparison to now, when every day tens of thousands of people stand on street corners begging for money. Some need the money to feed their families, others to feed a drug habit. Others are schemers who can earn more begging than from traditional employment.
Cities across America are home to modern day “Hoovervilles,” squatter settlements where poor people live in tents or RVs that barely run. My city of Seattle has a terrible problem. My daughter just returned from a trip to Austin, Texas. “There were areas you didn’t go,” she said, referring to homeless encampments.
The fact is, it’s a whole lot better to spend your nights in an RV, no matter how beat up, than in a cardboard box on a sidewalk. Who can blame the poor for wanting a roof over their heads?
THE SQUATTER ENCAMPMENTS, the “Hoovervilles,” are the extreme. People a little better off can afford to hole up in cheap RV parks. A couple of years ago I counted 11 unsightly and unregistered RVs, or RVs with long-expired licenses, in a Seattle area KOA. Those people were living there, not passing through. Hundreds of such parks, maybe thousands, are scattered across America.
Walmart, which has long allowed RVs to spend a night in its parking lots, is banning overnight stays store by store as they become home turf to communities of beater RVs and their often questionable inhabitants.
Where does this lead? The way I see it, look for more and more “Hoovervilles” and more RV park “slums” in the years ahead. Many 25-year-old RVs are a potential home for someone who desperately needs shelter. A junker works just fine when there’s nothing else.
In case you forget, RV means “recreational vehicle.” People who live in RVs out of desperation are not RVers in the way the RV industry portrays them, and have little in common with most readers of this newsletter who own an RV for pleasure, and not out of necessity.
This depressing situation is a whole lot bigger than just “RVing.” There are, needless to say, no easy solutions.