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Is the ‘rolling homeless’ problem affecting your RV lifestyle?

Campgrounds have long been an economic melting pot in the U.S. You see million-dollar Prevosts parked near a pop-up, with a tenting family just down the road. The same held true for popular boondocking spots. Everyone was there to have a good time and, for the most part, everyone got along.

Lately, however, camping and RVing have taken a bit of a turn. Recreational vehicles aren’t just for recreation anymore.

The “rolling homeless”

In recent months we’ve seen an acceleration in the trend among the newly homeless to gather their meager resources and rent or purchase a broken-down RV. The trend is especially evident in the Northwest and down the Northern California coast.

Suddenly, city officials in several locations are faced with growing fleets of more-than-slightly-worn RVs setting up camp on city streets and parks. The “rolling homeless” often cause a mess, add to street crime, and are generally not welcomed by the locals. The trend has also spawned a new type of slum lord who purchase used-up RVs, park them illegally on city streets and charge the homeless a per-night rental fee.

It’s a conundrum for local officials and social service agencies. Those beat-up RVs are often the only major assets or option those newly homeless have left. To those unfortunate folks, a used-up trailer with nothing functioning but a door, a bed and a roof beats a cardboard box and blue tarp on the sidewalk.

Homelessness in general has spiked of late. There are currently almost 130,000 people experiencing homelessness in California alone. That’s nearly a quarter of the homeless population in the entire U.S. Los Angeles County has 16,500 people known to be living in their vehicles (RVs, cars, and trucks). California isn’t alone. Homelessness is on the rise everywhere. The gauntlet of pandemic restrictions has only added to the problem’s complexity.

Disasters waiting to happen

Living full time in an RV that has far outlived its expiration date is a dangerous game.

Every week there are dozens of stories from around the country featuring RVs bursting into flames. Nearly always, the aged RVs are parked in a friend’s back yard, along a city street, or in an abandoned parking lot.

The problem has exacerbated as winter weather forced occupants to run overtaxed electric space heaters or makeshift propane stoves to stay warm. The result has been numerous injuries and deaths. RVs were never intended as full-time abodes in winter climates.

The newly homeless RV dwellers are also easy prey for petty crime, theft, and assaults.

City leaders are placed in uncomfortable positions, too. For example Austin, Texas, voters reinstated the city’s public camping ban last May. Authorities spent the summer and fall clearing out large encampments and telling homeless RVers to move along when they had nowhere else to go.

Seeing an opportunity in beat-up RVs

Social service agencies like the New Beginnings Counseling Center in Santa Barbara, California, see those housing in vehicles as newly homeless, but not hopeless. People who live in their vehicles are more likely to have been recently living in permanent housing and still have some sort of income.

Agencies like New Beginnings see the rolling homeless as the easiest group to get back on their feet and back into traditional housing. They typically haven’t been homeless long and are motivated to get a regular roof back over their heads.

Cities up and down the coast are offering special overnight lots and “campgrounds” where those with RVs and other vehicles can safely stay and have access to social services. The goal is to get the broken-down RVs out of residential neighborhoods and into safe places where residents can have better access to services to get them back on their feet.

Similar “safe place” programs are in place in Eugene, Oregon, and East Palo Alto, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara, California, to name just a few.

The programs seem to be making a very small dent in a very large problem. The programs work on a small scale, but the homeless population living in vehicles is growing much faster than cities can build safe places to stay.

Why you should care

For openers, caring for the less fortunate should be part of the human condition. Homelessness isn’t “their” problem, it’s “our” problem. Beyond that, the homeless sleeping in old RVs illegally does have a direct-line impact on recreational RVing.

We all know that the huge influx of new recreational campers is stressing the supply of private, state, and federal campgrounds. Newbies are filling parks every day of the week, and many private campgrounds are forcing out long-term and residential residents to make room for the more lucrative transient camper.

Some of those forced out are those rolling homeless who were just able to afford a campground’s long-term fees but have no chance of paying the daily rate. So, back to the streets they go.

Next, law enforcement officers force the homeless to remove their RVs from city streets. With nowhere else to go, the homeless drag their old RVs to the very same boondocking havens frequented by recreational RVers. The next time you pull in to overnight at the local Walmart, look around at your neighbors.

Overnight camping at stores being banned due to “rolling homeless”

A growing number of retail boondocking havens like Walmart have begun banning overnight parking due in part to this homeless influx who roll from lot to lot every night. For the stores, restaurants, and truck stops, it just isn’t worth the problems.

The same is true for boondocking on public lands. If you haven’t noticed already, there are a growing number of folks now living day-to-day by boondocking on public lands. They aren’t there for the views or the recreation. They are trying to survive.

City residents are losing sympathy for the rolling homeless cluttering their neighborhoods and parks. But, unfortunately, many municipal zoning and planning boards see little difference between those living in their RV for economic reasons and big-money developers willing to add $20 million campgrounds to the local economy. Park developers are facing an uphill battle in many instances to win the hearts of the locals who equate new RV parks with the RVs they see on their streets, and they are often losing. That hurts the long-term prospects for easing the lack of available RV sites and adds to the overall degradation of what RVing actually is in the minds of non-RVers.



What can be done?

The traditional RVing lifestyle we all love is being affected by folks with few options other than to sleep in their less-than-ideal RV. The answer is to provide this group with more options.

According to the University of Southern California Homelessness Policy Research Institute, safe parking programs like those mentioned above can lead up to 70 percent of their homeless clients obtaining housing after using these sites.

These programs have huge potential to help, according to Gary Painter, director of the Homelessness Policy Research Institute. “It’s really an opportunity to have that first intervention for a large set of folks that likely won’t need a lot of services, but just a reconnection to job placement or something else that might be able to resolve [their lack of income] and move them back into permanent housing.”

This isn’t an easy fix, but one that every RV enthusiast can support on both local and national levels. Painter said any solution is going to require large-scale government intervention. “This is a massive problem that needs massive intervention,” Painter argued. “What hasn’t been talked about nearly as much is what to systematically do with populations living in their vehicles.”

What do you think about the “rolling homeless” issue? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Related:

Just what is “camping” nowadays?

##RVT1038b

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Denny Wagaman
2 months ago

We all are different for whatever reason. Life happens . Good things and bad things happen in a blink of an eye sometimes. RV’ers are not entitled. Many many homeless people do not have a choice and yes many do choose to
that life style.
It’s easy to judge others when one has enough money to live pretty much how one wants to live.. it’s a LUXRY to have an RV at least for most of us.

For the grace of God go I……

Tracy Mapes
7 months ago

People Only seem to see life from their own perspective.

I’ve been living “Homelessly” in a trailer on the streets since the inception of the “Covid Crisis”, and it has really opened my eyes to the way society works, and treats people that don’t seem to conform to their ideals of how or why a person should live.

It seems that Cities/Municipalities seem to be on the same path, and the only one they know, is that the “Homeless” are just an eyesore that must be swept under the rug and out of the path of that progress that created homelessness in the First place.

Irresponsible use of tax revenues, permit fees, and regulation, that fuel the fires of Human Failure, without regard for the basic facts of the hurdles they create to stymie human endeavor.

Housing, Buy, Rent or Build, has become unaffordable in an economy that dis-includes the many, while so many are homeless, the building of McMansions and Higher Income Apartments feed the political asperations of the few.

Tracy Mapes
7 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Mapes

And, what I have learned as I look out of my trailer window as you drive passed on the street, is that Homes are a trap to separate Man from his money, whether you believe you are a Home Owner, Renter, or Landlord, the Home has become a money aggregator to milk Mankind of all that they are worth.

When, you live in a trailer, the frugality of your existence is rewarded by not having a monthly payment. Cash normally spent for mortgage or rent is directly deposited in your wallet to spend as you like without banking fees, credit or interest. So, if you can stand being looked upon by the ungrateful masses as a second class citizen, What will you do with that all new discovered pile of loot that you gave away every moth just so you could lay on your bed in a House, starring at the ceiling and wondering if it’s all worth it?

I’ll tell you what I would do. I would spend some of that cash, and try to start living life again.

Jay
2 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Mapes

Point to everything and everyone else as “reasons why” – victims mentality and it’s used as a crutch. Never an internal assessment as being wholly or partially responsible. The only helping hand you can count on is at the end of your arm – use it!

Heather
2 months ago
Reply to  Jay

Wow Jay, you seem to have rocks in your ears & heart as well as your head.
Minimum wage hasn’t been covering the real cost of living for the past 20 years. Shouldn’t be a surprise that is hugely adding to the homeless problem. Many working people are now fulltime RVer’s because housing & apartment rents are so flat-out ridiculously high now. If minimum wage can’t even cover apartment rents now then it’s no wonder so many WORKING people are choosing RV life.

Last edited 2 months ago by Heather
www.livingboondockingmexico.blogspot.com
7 months ago

Part 3: Bring back Depression-era work programs that would allow the homeless to find dignity and a sense of worth through job training and building a worn-out infrastructure. Build campgrounds with basic necessities and help get people back on their feet and into the mainstream. Some of the greatest monuments in the U.S. that we all have visited were created by doing this and getting people through tough times. It’s time to rethink homelessness and drug abuse and not brush it off because it’s not going away on its own.

Walter Kreppein
4 months ago

Great idea,once again.

www.livingboondockingmexico.blogspot.com
7 months ago

Part 2: We can’t remedy the educational issue with most older homeless people. We can though, begin to change the course we had taken, get kids back in school and keep them off of drugs. We can no longer deny the fact that technology and artificial intelligence are just fun and games, they will change the way in which we live and work. People will no longer need to work in the fields, clean house, wash cars, stock shelves, cut grass, and shovel snow. That’s why our grandkids are working with robotics in schools today. Just like the use of fossil fuels, we were warned and we didn’t heed that warning. The same with education. There are 2.5 billion Chinese and Indians not including other countries that will be taking over, and I mean that in a good sense. We have no one else to do those jobs for lack of education. We caused homelessness and drug abuse by allowing the majority to slip through the cracks. We need to see these two generations through until the end.

www.livingboondockingmexico.blogspot.com
7 months ago

It’s not an easy subject to discuss without emotions getting in the way. After all, we’re talking about human beings. Not all of us are good people, not kind, not loving. Many of the homeless got off to a bad start in life, many by choice through the use of drugs and others who simply dropped out of society. Yes, there are homeless with degrees and PhDs and then there are many, many who didn’t finish high school. I’m a teacher and I researched this for many years. We gave people the opportunity to opt-out of education with a GED. It’s a worthless piece of paper. The majority who “opted out” did so because they had no one to push them to study. We made a huge mistake, not only in the U.S. but in most of the American continent with these programs. School should be mandatory at least through high school. We’re in a quandary now as Eastern countries have taken a turn and we are seeing highly educated people taking high-paying jobs in the Americas.

Rolling homeless
7 months ago

Many people on social security are living in there cars they only get 8 to 9 dollars a month some people can’t get housing assistance like ex criminals {bleeped} offenders murders so they choice to live in there vehicle now rich f**** want to complain about our RV ROLLING HOMELESS I’d rather see these people at lease they have a roof over there heads there are a lot of homeless people living on the streets in the heat and the cold at lease rolling homeless have a roof over there heads really you don’t have to worry about there breaking any laws the way the Peice of living is people can’t afford to live in expensive place only making 13 dollars an hour just don’t work how many people out there living by themselves making 13 dollars an hour and these people probably knows more about living in rv than the ones that just have a new one proven fact most of the RV living back in the 80s were new RVs cooking on fire so don’t bad mouth the homeless until you know what you’re talking about

Lilith Orgeve
7 months ago

Modern cult’ure says you have to conform to and subscribe to some kind of platform alter to hold all your coveted things. Let people return to a nomadic lifestyle. Stop shamming people because they don’t fit your mold of what being a human is. Let people be free again. Let people break the chains.

Julie Parker
7 months ago

I believe the writer of this story got an answer to whatever questions or reasons he had for writing it. We are a world populated by differences (people). The story should have been…”Americans living on Wheels” Choice or Necessity?

Lonnie
7 months ago

What happened to empathy folks? There are so many good people who for whatever reason can’t drive the megabus, but want to enjoy the rich bounty of this country. RV parks are designed to enable them to do so. There was a time we simply enjoyed the variety of lifestyles, even encouraged the vagabond trekking. Now we are standing in judgement and deciding those who don’t drive the latest vehicle are less than honorable people. How sad. You need to learn to be receptive to the fact that the occupants of that less than desirable coach might also have a college degree if that’s what is important to you. So bottom line folks, remember, “here but by the grace of God am I”

Michael
7 months ago

Homelessness shouldn’t be a problem in this once great country? Why doesn’t Bezo, Gates, Musk, and all the other 667 billionaires that increased they’re wealth by 44% during the pandemic? How can they sit by and NOT help? They’ll pay the price on judgement day! GOD BLESS they’re soulless hearts

Walter Kreppein
4 months ago
Reply to  Michael

Yes, you are “on the money” with that idea.

Nobody at all
7 months ago

The rolling homeless problem is a symptom of a much bigger problem of extreme rates of rent and housing prices for affordable sustainable housing. RVs aren’t that well built to begin with and this is exacerbated by new RVs with lower quality higher prices and a government unwilling to implement quality standards. What you should be doing is looking at why so many people are homeless and that will lead you to major corporations and greed thinking of renters as a number for profit margin.

Doug
7 months ago
Reply to  Nobody at all

If you think housing and apartments are high just wait till you see what they charge to live in senior housing and how little you get in services for the high prices they charge.

Esgee
7 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Agreed. Just realizing this along with extremely high health insurance premiums and the elimination of my social security widow’s benefit that I could receive only after age 65. I worked 2 jobs all my life and saved for my retirement last year at age 71, but my savings wont last long enough. I’m scared. It’s a messed up system that I never realized.

netha morgan
7 months ago

My rights are being violated on this site as a gold star mother I know I have the freedom of speech yet you are limiting my speech on this site because I cannot use any adult language you’ve got to be kidding me freedom of speech the first amendment to the Constitution and you are violating it on this site by limiting and then punishing people to say especially if it is not threatening a life

David Kutz
7 months ago
Reply to  netha morgan

You don’t have rights on this website nor should you. What a crazy idea that you think you have a right for something you don’t pay for. I see this website as a private company footing the bill and they can do anything they want like you can do in your own business or your own website or social media page. This is not a taxpayer funded website, if you don’t like the service they offer, than just don’t go there,

netha morgan
7 months ago

A lot of the problem is people have forgotten that we have constitutional rights to use these roads as citizens we pay for them we are already taxed and we have the right to use these roads whether it be just to drive down or whether it be to park our car a lot of these laws and ordinance that are being made actually violate constitutional laws and that’s why cities have had to take them down in the first place is because they were making laws that are not to be enforced because they violate constitutional rights of the citizens you are not going to be able to vote your way out of this you are not going to be able to ordinance your way out of this because even states must follow constitutional rights in not violating a citizens right so what you guys need to do maybe just maybe help everybody not just make it a government issue but everybody needs to help find out why there’s so much homelessness why there’s so much drug usage don’t blame the person for an illness help them get better.

Rolling homeless
7 months ago
Reply to  netha morgan

This is why they make civil rights lawyers they don’t charge until you win most of the time you will win

Kim
7 months ago

Government is no longer a viable solution to every problem (as demonstrated in the last two years).

Bruce
7 months ago

Hi all, the term homeless does not apply. Home is where you hang your hat. The word home 🏡 is the second half of motorhome because it has the amenities of a home. So if it rolls you can be branded as a rolling homeless. Hmmm so therefore you are undesirable.
Maybe someone is making baby steps back into a better life after getting their {bleeped} kicked from unforseen circumstances. This also applies to the person living in the cardboard box. Who just might have a picture of a loved one taped to the inside.
Hey what if you just like traveling and meet new folks in an older rig?
Let’s rethink about what home is.

Cindy fritz
7 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

Hooray!!!

Abel Cardenas
7 months ago

I think that people should understand that life is not easy for all of us as it is for others for the ones that are loud sure they should be the ones that should leave but the peacefull ones should be respectful and ask the people that live in the homes for permission in a respectful way

David Chavez
7 months ago

Ok ladies and gents. Im new to the rv world. Ive been boondocking for about 2.5 months now. I flipping love it. I do work fulltime in construction .Sometimes on my bigger jobs ill park my mansion right on the jobsite for a. Week or two. As far as i see it, the worlds going to hell in a handbasket soo fast, im ahead of the game. I have paid overinflated rent just like the rest of the sucker norm. But not lately.
I do see both sides though. And ive been researching the laws. I wouldnt want some creepy camper or rv parking in front of my house niether. Thats why i park where i am known and have permission. And as far as the scumbags or the wildlife u may run into, i have my loaded 380. I havent had any problems sofar. For the most part its been fun. Im going to see how everything pans out before making the next move from here.

That guy
7 months ago

Geez folks….. a lot of your points were hard to understand…. perhaps remove that silver spoon before speaking next time….

Anyways, go look up the word empathy because I’m not sure some of you are even aware the concept.

I digress…. veterans are a large segment of the homeless overall. So do what your stupid bumper stickers said and support them. A lot of homeless suffer from mental health issues and end up being pushed into the fringes of society. I envy you folks that say it’s simply a bunch of drug addicts…..it’s easy to explain to yourself why they don’t matter that way. It’s simply wrong.

This is only one systemic problem out of several that show our society not only won’t survive, but that we shouldn’t.

You really wanna fix this? End poverty and a lot of drug abuse and violence ends. People who aren’t desperate and feeling hopeless tend to have better lives and contribute more. Crazy stuff, I know.

Pen
7 months ago
Reply to  That guy

Thank you so much, I’m the “newly slum homeless” I resent this treatment and think it is not wrong but morally inhumane.. nothing else.. I agree with your silver spoon comment etc.. I tried a motel but got booted out of it.. No chance to get a foot in the door because now days is the worse in haters who have less material things than others.. Old beat up RVs.. look around at Walmart, ya your right but I’m old 60 year old lady and yes vulnerable all alone to crime, gas lighting etc.. and yes mental illness plays a role but it DOES NOT define me as a person and believe it or not? I’m a human like you, I hope there is afterlife for all the haters I meet, nobody not one has even asked .. do you need help not police either and I tried my state resources they told me to pull up my bootstraps.. my bootstraps are old and tired.. so next time you look at us creepy old RVs.. Well I’m just a human and trust me you are no better because you have money.. how absolutely insulting that comment is to humanity and dignity!!

Gail
7 months ago
Reply to  Pen

You are not alone!!! I don’t know you but your post touched me. All I can do for you is tell you that you are a human, we all are. You are beautiful, smart, resourceful and strong! I will keep you in my prayers today Pen…… please keep love in your heart 💜

Katie
7 months ago
Reply to  Pen

I’m in the same situation. I’m a 32 year old single mother of 2 girls. I’ve worked my {bleeped} off as a 50 hour plus server in the local cafe. Out of no where my health turns for the worst. Dr tells me I have cancer and it’s taking over fast. With in the same week my home catches fire. No renters insurance and a slumlord leaves me and my girls in our old camping RV that was parked in the backyard. Along with my girls and I surviving the fire so did my RV. Here we are 6 months later trying to get by month by month parked somewhere with fears of the end of every month to approach. Then the hunt begins of somewhere to park and call home again. With in the past 6 months I have became very sick. I have became homeless, jobless, bank accounts and savings drained and stuck on empty or in the negative. Depression has set in for the fear of what happens to my girls if I don’t make it through this before I can get my girls set up to be ok when I’m gone. Between the back and forth trips to school pick up and drop offs and 50 miles to the cancer clinic that totally has consumed my life my car is my best friend for not giving up on me like everything else has in life. I’m sure it’s coming in the near future though. So that being said the RV lifer is the only choice some people get. You don’t know everybody and their stories or their reasonings of why the life they were giving has put them where they are. The truth is that everybody has a story. So instead of bad mouthing people, putting them down lower then they already are, reach out to them and ask if they have story they want to tell about what in life has put them where they are today. Rving is a tough way to live in these situations. It sucks. It’s cold or it’s hot. It’s crammed for space. It stinks. It’s not anything close to living in a house. It fricken sucks. So if you in this same living crisist of RV living I can relate and I wish you the best and remember this ……take the good with the bad smile when you sad. Love what you’ve got and remember what you’ve had. Always forgive but never forget. Some things go wrong and people change but life still goes on. Thanks for reading if you made it all the way through.

Rolling homeless
7 months ago
Reply to  Katie

Your story really touched me If I had a million dollars right now you a your girls will not be living like that people that are in the same situation your in are the ones that will help you more than anyone else your story made me cry knowing someone else out there is in worst shape than I am

Lori
2 months ago
Reply to  Katie

Katie, praying for you and your two beautiful girls. Life is hard and even harder with child(ren) are involved. I have no idea as to what it is like to fill your shoes.

Which made me think of that old phrase about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. “The admonition to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes means before judging someone, you must understand his experiences, challenges, thought processes, etc. The full idiom is: Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. In effect, it is a reminder to practice empathy.”

I have a new prospective on life . Thank you for sharing your story. As I said in the beginning I will continue to pray for you and your daughters. Along with others in the same predicament.

Tim mitchell
7 months ago

You folks to have your home still out of your mind. As far it goes far beyond drugs in the homeless lifestyle you’re up against the war in this country in the world actually it’s called satanism it starts at the top you better wake up or taking your vaccination or you and your family will be dead and soon you’ll will all be homeless you better start paying attention to the economic world and what’s at hand you went to college she must know the truth in life if not you should start studying and get off of CNN MSNBC ABC even Fox we’re all in this together whether you like it or not California isn’t the greatest economy not by far you’re being lied to or you just too naive and ignorant to look at the truth. I’m not trying to be difficult but what I will say is there are places to receive solid information on what we all face start with rosa of Corey of Santa Rosa California. Going to tick tock and in the search box punching New world order. Go on YouTube and look up the winner of x Factor

Tom Oliver
7 months ago

That’s crazy. California is the biggest economic engine by far in the US (and the fifth largest economy on earth), providing products and services at every level and feeding the nation as well. Taking away all the taxes California contributes would be crippling. The nation would suffer a huge economic setback if California were “kicked out”. Like I said…. crazy.

chris
7 months ago
Reply to  Tom Oliver

I’d like to think the kick out CA comment is a joke, but unfortunately, it isn’t.

Tom Oliver
7 months ago
Reply to  chris

I know Chris!

Mia
7 months ago
Reply to  Tom Oliver

Native Californian and we actually grow your food and all your wine.