The future of RVing is not necessarily pretty

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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.

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Kim Christiansen

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!

john arata

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

RICHARD SPAHN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

LauraC

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

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”.

Carson

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

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

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

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

rob

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

Robert

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!

Dry Creek

Somehow I think everyone here has missed the point that Chuck was trying to make – the plethora of old, used and unwanted RV’s act as an enabler for the concentration of folks who would otherwise be considered homeless. I didn’t see it as a treatise on social class or means. I saw it as a statement about how our disposable economy has created an abundance of semi-portable shelters. Where these shelters can be lodged en masse, even temporarily, tend to show the beginnings of urban blight simply due to the infrastructure NOT being built to accommodate semi-mobile lodging.

Or, I am totally off base and Chuck hates the poor since they don’t shop at his advertisers?

Terri Foxx-Wishert

As we travel, we see the dichotomy of occupants of RV’s. There are the travelers, there are the short-term jobs – traveling medical professionals and construction, mostly, and those who live in a park for years, because it is the least expensive way to live. We see a lot of seniors/poor people who have taken to this life because they can afford it. Rental housing prices are going through the roof.
Once you have an RV, you can probably live for $500-$600 in reasonable park. Far cheaper than $1200-2000 for an apartment.
Let’s call it what it is – a housing crisis. I know that the RV park owners are just as puzzled as the rest of us to see a better solution, but this is one that works.