The future of RVing is not necessarily pretty

96

By Chuck Woodbury
EDITOR
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.

Subscribe
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

96 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Admin
Kim Christiansen (@imkimc)
1 year ago

RVtravel.com will post stories from time to time that may cause you to desire to climb on your political soapbox.

Editorials we post are indeed the opinion of the editor. And they may stir up controversy. That is their purpose, to inspire thought and civil discussion. Our focus is on how these types of issues affect our readers and fellow RVers. We’re not placing blame on a political view but pointing out, and editorializing on, an issue that is affecting the RV community.

We ask that you keep your comments and opinions civil toward one another. And keep the discussion on the issue that affects you or your fellow RVers and your ability to enjoy RVing.

We’re all in this together!

E. D. Law
1 year ago

As a “retired” couple 9not well retired but we get by) we have run into the problem of rv parks that will not let us park our 1993 rig. I asked one owner recently how old his park was in he told me he had been there 17 years. I said to him; Well that’s old and you probably run down and trashy so I would not stay in a place like that. You judged me sight unseen so do I judge you. The real problem now in this country is simple GREED. Everyone wants MORE. Look at Camper Worlds situation. Greed is costing them dearly now and most of our corporations are just the same. As long as people cheat and lie without regard for others our problems are going to get much worse God Bless us all.

TravelingMan
1 month ago

Chuck, I gotta say that by Government Standards, we can be considered homeless under auspices above. We’re not poor by any means but rather, its a lifestyle choice we (like others) choose (maybe not so wisely when some of us look back on it years later). But we’re very content right now traveling around and getting to do things we would have never been able to do staying stationary. Our rig is 42′ long and full body paint. We have all the amenities of home. Combined length is just shy of 70′.

But I have to agree with you on your perception for sure. As we travel about, it has become more and more noticeable the number of dilapidated rigs in the parks. To make matters worse, park owners seem to care less and less. They prefer steady monthly income versus overnight or weekly stays even if its less profit. We stayed in one in Greenwood, Indiana that was advertised as a resort. When we got there, it was shocking to see all of the abandoned RV’s there. This is not the only place we have seen this either. It’s like people buy an RV, discover how much work they are, and then they abandon them wherever it finally is no longer inhabitable. SOME park owners see this and try to evict them. But that can take months and a lot of money in legal fees. So, they just keep sending the owners notices.

Right now, we are in Oklahoma. This has the potential of a nice park. There are about 50 spaces (give or take). The owner keeps 8 open for travelers. The remaining are permanent people. They are wind turbine workers getting up at 5 in the morning. They start their noisy trucks up and idle them for 10-15 minutes before departing. There are neighbors who leave their barking dogs outside all day long (including the weekend). There are some RV’s here that look like they are from the 40’s. The owner asks no questions of anyone. They ask for rent and that’s it. What a risk for the owner! I wonder if he realizes what is in store if anything happens? There are NO rules or regulations whatsoever. Still, it’s a nice and clean park. Just can’t stand all the noise early am and dogs barking. We’ll move on at the end of the month.

Its not to the point of every park giving up. But its certainly a trend that if it keeps up, we’ll go back to sticks and bricks for sure.

Some parks have a rule of less than 10 years old. Some will let you stay if they see pictures of the rigs first. I can EASILY see their side of it. They are trying to run a decent park keeping the junk (and trouble a lot of the times) out. I don’t claim to have an answer to this trend. It’s disturbing to see it continue. Perhaps if there were “standards” designating the type of RV Park/Campground it was, this might help identify where people can go. Maybe designate by

Retirement Park – Only those 55 and older
Home Parks – Anyone calling an RV home
Campgrounds – Max stay 1 week
Shelter Parks – For those that have financial hardships
Resorts – Parks with entertainment venues – Max 1 week stay

I know there would be Cities that rebel this strategy. First off, they want everyone to be in a home so taxes can be collected at every level. But at least as RVr’s, we would have some way of identifying where we want to stay. Even for shorter duration’s.

Back to your point, we didn’t start out with your observations but as we travel more and more, we cannot disagree at all.

Steven Brewer
3 months ago

Full-time since 2016 after retiring and downsizing with my wife & pup. ’98 model 30′ Class A that I am currently remodeling the inside for the Mrs.
We have been around, from NC to Canada, Arizona, Texas, Florida & all points in between, but still rookies! Next goal – Pacific North West.
We have met great folks all over the country, from pipe crews in NOLA who travel with their families in monster 5th wheels & 1 ton diesels to travelling nurses who contract for 3-4 months to folks that have been in the same spot for years. They make up the fabric of RV life. Different folks – IT pros that drive 45′ luxury & pull full size pickups next to tear drops, parked next to each other cooking burgers & having a beer.
Anyway, the first time my wife and I camped we were trying to put up the awning, and it was kicking my butt! The guy next to us asked if I wanted some help, and I thankfully accepted. He showed me how to put the awning up and said he had started in an RV like mine. I noticed he had a dually pulling a monster 5er. He had more in tires than I had in my whole rig! Great guy and they were gone the next morning. Just great RV people! And the kind of folks we have met all over the country.
The future of RVing is changing because the people and the country are changing. This is part of RVing, accepting change because that is the natural course of events. We can not control change, just control our response to it. Happy Trails!

john arata
1 year ago

Sometimes I wonder if chuck with all his negative comments should really be the editor.Chuck I heard Camping World is looking for help

Rob Kidder
1 year ago
Reply to  john arata

My observation from your statement is that your glass is half empty. Your tunnel vision fails to see all of the good and informative information contained in the rvtravel.com news letter.

littleleftie
3 months ago
Reply to  john arata

Hmmmm….perhaps YOU should be the one to move on. This newsletter isn’t “required reading”. If you aren’t happy with it and it’s editor, don’t read it. BUT…those of us who DO love it, will continue to support it. That reminds me…I am due to recommit some funds to keep it running.

RICHARD SPAHN
1 year ago

There is an answer for the homeless: https://mlf.org/community-first/
It’s working and its in Austin, Texas and could work anywhere with some organized backers, volunteers, community support, City council support and a philanthropist with a big heart.
Some RV park owners exploit the poor and raise their rent knowing they cant move, then foreclose on their rig when they get behind and rent it out to someone new and start all over again. There’s an owners association that hold’s workshops on how to do it.
Seattle would be a great place to adopt Austin’s model.
THE ABOVE IS FACT AND NOT OPINION
https://mlf.org/community-first/

Peter
1 year ago

Judging by some of the comments, it seems to me, that some readers confuse observations as opinions. This seems to happen in the Facebook RV groups I belong to. Sometimes it gets complicated when someone posts an observation, followed by their opinion. Either way, we should all learn to play nice together, before someone comes and takes all of our toys away. Happy Trails.

Einar Hansen
1 year ago

My wife and I waited 2 years to get a seasonal site. We almost did not get it because of the age of our trailer. The owners of the campgrounds wanted to come and see it before they offered us a site. So we spent a weekend there so he could see it. He took a good long look inside and out. Our trailer was at the time 11 years old they do have a 10 year rule there. But ours was fully insured and registered. He said that he could see that it is well taken care of plus roadworthy. And we told him that we will be taking it out of state at least once during the season to go on vacation.
He then told us about some of the stories about people who use and abandon them. They had 40 one year!

squeakytiki
1 year ago

I contend that my 22 year old Lazy Daze class C is built better than anything rolling off the line currently from Thor or Forest River.

Philip H. Wood
1 year ago

I worked as a park host for several seasons and had a enjoyed the experiences. I did not work because I needed the money but to see if I wanted to own park. My experiences with the older RVs was that if they looked good and the occupants looked good that there was never a problem. I did, however, observe that there are some park owners that are jerks but most of them do not last long in a people oriented business and some just run sleazy junk yards. One thing that became apparent was that without the long term business, it is impossible to be economically viable. The overnight and weekend business is great but you cannot survive without your long term revenue.

Kurt Shoemaker Sr
1 year ago

After reading your article “The future of RVing is not necessarily pretty” I thought; based on the junk being sent out the door at the RV manufacturers today, we won’t have old RV’s available for this purpose in twenty years.

Lee
1 year ago

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. Anatole France (16 April 1844 – 12 October 1924)

Keira B
1 year ago

Funny how Chuck, the editor of this newsletter, recently became a full time RVer. Now he is becoming aware of the things that most of us long time full timers have been aware of.
The people living cheap did not just start living in old RVs recently. It has been going on for decades. There have always been RV parks that “went to the dogs,” and filled up with cheap RVs and dubious inhabitants. WalMarts have had this same problem periodically.
I realize that Chuck is a journalist, and is not really an expert on anything. Just remembering that he is learning, and expressing his opinion. I have to keep reminding myself that the articles in this newsletter are opinions, not facts.

Julie Cherry
1 year ago

I made a judgement 2 years ago in a county campground in MN. There was an old yellow/orange class C which was running pretty rough. I called it the “meth lab”. When my sister went to use the ladies’ washroom there was a mom and her special-needs, adult daughter in there taking showers. It was their RV. They had current tabs and paid for their RV spot just like I did. They were there for 2 weeks and then they left. Returned a few days later with another 2 week ticket. You know the rules. 14 days and then you are out. I felt bad for them and for judging them. I also worried for them wondering what they were going to do when the winter hit. That mother was doing her best.

TravelingMan
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie Cherry

Is this a “norm” or the exception? I have my guess based on where we have been…

LauraC
1 year ago

I really think most of you are missing the point so completely, it’s scary. Your tax dollars are supposedly going to help the poor and let them gain a foothold in society they can then leverage into success. Is giving them and old, worn out RV they can’t really afford the upkeep on and is temporary at best really fullfilling that social contract? Is putting them on the streets of LA in front of someone’s home in an RV they can’t move to empty the sewage tanks or get fresh water really helping them? Is it helping the real RV community’s reputation (and by that I mean the people who actually use an RV as a recreational vehicle and not as a last grasp on civilization)? It’s shameful.

Bruce Maass
1 year ago

Future of RVing; kind of a direct parallel to the surge of camping popularity pre-1900 and in the first 2 decades of the century contrasted against the tent and shack communities of dust bowl migrants eking out existence as farm laborers. Can’t call that “camping out” or “tenting tonight”.

Graybyrd
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Maass

I’ve told this tale before: prior to the Dust Bowl years, the city of Boise, ID had a lovely riverside park where local families would all through the summer pitch tents and enjoy the cool evenings and weekends. It became quite a social scene, according to historical reports. Then came the “homeless hordes” of American families fleeing the ecological disaster, looking for a new start, a new home. In response to the “undesirables” camping enroute to Oregon and California, Boise City officials outlawed overnighting in the parks. It remains so to this day. In the end, only the Boise residents themselves suffered. Most have no idea of what an ‘idyllic pleasure’ the former residents enjoyed.

Carson
1 year ago

FYI: Skyrocketing housing prices, often driven my non-resident real-estate owners and investor/speculators, has driven even employees of Silicon Valley high-tech firms to living in RVs on the peninsula streets of the Bay Area. So, the reason “Demo cities” attract the dispossessed is because they demonstrate the kind of Christian charity that is too often missing from other less democratic communities…

Carson Axtell
1 year ago

My prediction: You can expect communities and agencies fed-up with the problem of homeless encampments and trashed boondocking sites to pass progressively more ordinances and laws forbidding overnight camping throughout the country, and for the attitudes of those communities and agencies to turn decidedly against camping on public lands. And you can further expect private campgrounds to get progressively more expensive and exclusive…and crowded.

Phillip Seaman
1 year ago

How does Workampers fit into your scenario?
I have been Workamping for over 3 years now and find it a great way to keep off the streets and at nice resorts, sometimes even make minimum wage to rebuild the coffers after a large repair bill and a smile on my face. Workamping is a great way to visit resorts you might not normally be able to afford and meet some really nice people doing the same thing at the same time.
I drive a 1997 Discovery 36ft class-A. I have never been refused a workamper job because I have an old rig. Later this year when I am wintering in Arizona I will get the rig painted in Mexico.
My complaint is the flagrant “rig age discrimination” that some are enforcing..

Bill Thompson
1 year ago

I don’t consider my 24 year old Airstream a “Junker”

rob
1 year ago

Interesting Chuck, we own a 5th wheel that is a 1993, Old doesn’t mean junker. I wouldn’t spend my hard earned money on a new RV. They are overpriced junker’s. Anybody who borrows money to purchase one of these overpriced piles of junk IMHO is crazy. North America society needs to start thinking differently. Developers and builder’s need to lobby governments to start building tiny home communities that people can afford. If something keeps rain from hitting your head its a home, fancy and expensive doesn’t make it better or make people happy IMHO

Jay
1 year ago
Reply to  rob

Wow! Tiny homes? Have you seen how tiny and hugely expensive they are? I’m not expert, but I suspect that “tiny homes” may not be the answer. We have millions of people/families living in their cars. I saw this firsthand when I was a kid back in the 60’s. Nothing has changed.

Robert
1 year ago

So what if a lot of RVers now live in RV’s out of necessity! Has chuck ever thought of people who can no longer afford new houses or apartments? Where do you think they should live? Most of us buy RV’s then live in them, in RV parks or resorts, like Thousand Trails. Why? bec houses/apartments have become so expensive! RV’s are one way we could lessen our expenses and save our money for old age. Have you ever thought of it chuck? Maybe you are a billionaire, that’s why you look down on us who can’t afford your way of life! Instead of commenting negatively on the problem, why don’t you just help out? Use your billions to help out those in need? If you can’t, then just pray for them!

Jay
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert

You all need to reread what Chuck wrote. As a true journalist, he reported facts not his own opinions.

RICHARD SPAHN
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay

I respecfully disaggree Chuck needs to take the new “facts” with the new data he now has from this feedback. New journalism calls it crowdsourcing as he attempts in his surveys. Hope he follows through on the RVs as affordable homes for working homeless with not enough for a deposit for rent . There’s a Church in Buda Texas that installed some tiny homes on their property.
https://mlf.org/community-first/
has daily rentals in Refurbished RVs for one to experience their park.
Chuck go there and tour and help spread their story.
Austin housing has become unaffordable for any of the 150 PER DAY moving here. I’ve recently met several boondocking, moochdocking, or living in RV parks