Tuesday, November 28, 2023



RV street dwellers: “It’s a crisis.”

By Chuck Woodbury

We’re written a lot lately about crowded RV parks due mostly to record setting sales of RVs (a half a million this year) with virtually no new campsites to stay. Parks where ten years ago an RVer could drop in for a night or two on the spur of the moment now often require reservations weeks, even months, ahead.

Another reason for the crowded conditions are RVers who can’t afford a traditional home or apartment who rent or buy a cheap, old RV and stay months, seasonally or even year-round in RV parks. 

But the problem goes beyond crowded RV parks to city streets crowded with RV dwellers. These people can’t afford to pay for space in an RV park, so they hole up on city streets. They use cell phones to communicate with each other about another place to stay after they are evicted from one location. “It’s a crisis,” Tom Myers, executive director of Community Services Agency of Mountain View told the The Mercury News. “We’ve never seen it like this.” His city, he said, averages more than three complaints a day about RV communities. “We have to be prepared that this will be the new normal for us. It’s a crisis.”

The The Mercury News’ article was subsequently printed in other newspapers. Here is part of what it reported:

Robert Ramirez lives in an old RV, parked curbside in an industrial section of San Jose.

He knows one day soon he’ll get that knock on his door. Police will politely ask him to relocate. Neither party will be happy, Ramirez said, but he’ll agree to move along.

It’s happened before, and he expects it will happen again — no matter how hard he tries to be a good neighbor and keep his vehicle and sidewalk clean. The 54-year-old lives on public assistance and collecting recyclables. “I have to do whatever I have to do,” he said.

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Bay Area cities are coming to realize what Ramirez already knows — parking tickets won’t solve the problem of finding a place to live. From Oakland to San Jose, officials are struggling to cope with a growing influx of RV dwellers seeking a safe, permanent place for the only homes they can afford. Read the rest of this article.

MEANWHILE, in Los Angeles, poor people and workers who cannot afford traditional housing are renting old, cheaply renovated RVs for up to $1,000 a month and parking them on city streets, moving only on police orders. Reports of sewage being dumped from these RVs and others on the street or in storm drains are common. Listen to the report from Marketplace about this that was aired on NPR:

Other, better-off RVers, but still dependent on earning extra income to survive, take jobs to afford their “rent.” Across the country, near Amazon.com warehouses, normally empty or almost empty RV parks are packed with RVers who work long shifts at about $11.50 an hour to help meet holiday sales demand. Read more.


Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodburyhttps://rvtravel.com
I'm the founder and publisher of RVtravel.com. I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.



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Marcus (@guest_18422)
5 years ago

Just keep importing people through illegal immigration. Democrats want them for power through votes and Republicans want them for power through cheap labor (profits). The middle class, backbone of our country, has been betrayed by the corrupt politicians, lobbyists, and government contractors in Washington. Most of the richest zip codes in the country surround DC.

We owe more than we can ever pay. What you are witnessing in people living in old RVs on the streets is just the beginning.

Renee (@guest_18205)
5 years ago

You should see the streets in neighborhoods in Portland, OR. We have tent communities that have sprung up along the sidewalks near the RV’s. It’s incredibly sad. They have just passed laws in the city allowing residents the ability to basically rent their property out to people with tiny homes and RV’s to help combat the rising cost of rent and home prices.

It’s insane how much it costs to rent a 2-bedroom apartment in a suburb now. My 20-something children can’t do it living together and they both work full time making more than minimum wage.

jane shure (@guest_18488)
5 years ago
Reply to  Renee

The main reason rents are so high is because of the high property taxes and the many regs landlords has to go through. It is hard to break even with all of the government interference. I got out of the rental business because of this. I guess the main reason taxes are so high is because the states are supporting illegal aliens at tax payers expense.

Debra (@guest_18200)
5 years ago

WHY??? It’s important to ask why this is happening. The investigative journalist in the interview linked below did just that. It’s a symptom of the destruction of the American middle class and the ever increasing inequality in our country. It’s a result of decades of trickle down economics making the rich richer while the average worker struggles to survive. Everyone working a full time job should be earning a living wage, yet it was sometime in the last century that the current minimum wage was enough to live on. There are people in my town in Oregon who work multiple jobs, yet are living in their cars because they can’t afford rent. This is just plain WRONG and it needs to change!


Norman (@guest_18226)
5 years ago
Reply to  Debra

I live in the Bay Area serviced by the Mercury News and live the experience of the high cost of living. Some cities are trying force a minimum wage on business who cannot afford it with some cutting hours or laying off workers making the situation worse. Saying someone who works full time should earn a living wage means little here when Sacramento believes they have an inexhaustible supply of tax dollars but waste them.

Karen (@guest_18355)
5 years ago
Reply to  Debra

Thank you, Deborah! It needed to be pointed out. Folks with no long-term view are “celebrating” their tax cuts. Unfortunately, this tax bill does nothing to reduce the debt, in fact it increases it, and the “solution” will be to cut basic social services. In the meantime, we have a whole generation that won’t be able to afford housing. It’s unconscionable. I’ve met people who have two jobs and still qualify for food stamps and Medicaid….until they cut those off as well.

jane shure (@guest_18487)
5 years ago
Reply to  Karen

JFK and Reagan both proved if you can cut taxes to improve the economy there will be an increase to the treasury. The problem is spending.

Stanley Sokolow (@guest_18170)
5 years ago

The example in the article about the guy in San Jose is not surprising. A recent news article said: “In San Jose, for example, a family needs to earn $113,000 just to afford the average two-bedroom apartment, according to an analysis by the nonprofit.” Another recent article reported about a San Jose State university adjunct professor who teaches 3 classes and can’t afford to rent an apartment so she lives in her car. It’s not just the retired, unemployed, welfare-recipients, and other low-income persons who are unable to afford a normal place to live.

Stanley Sokolow (@guest_18167)
5 years ago

Where I live on the central California coast, there are a lot of migratory people living in old RVs which they park wherever they can get away with it. There is only one place (a gas station) in the city where RVs can dump their tanks other than in state parks. The dump fees are $9 to $15 (free for paid overnight campers in the parks). Neighbors have complained about unsanitary dumping from the RVs, yet when the city was planning to upgrade its sewage treatment plant, there was no plan to provide an RV dump station or allow RVs to dump where the septic tank servicing trucks dump. I suspect that some of them are dumping in the storm drains, which flow untreated to the ocean shores, which is a lot cheaper than the dump station fees. Cities need to face reality about low-income folks who live full time in their RVs and park where they can. Providing no-cost RV dumping for documented low-income people is a public health issue. The city doesn’t have pay toilets in the public restrooms. It should consider RV dumping similarly. The marginal cost to treat the sewage of one RV dump is nearly zero. The city can afford to give these folks a free place to dump their tanks.

booneyrat (@guest_18166)
5 years ago

One word sums up the overcrowded RV park problem in America…GREED. It will only get worse as more and more folks can’t afford the ever increasing rent prices for UN-affordable housing all across this once great land. Some 25 years ago we wintered in Arizona when RV spots were reasonable..under $200 a month…now those same spots are $500 on up.The post WWII generation got the cream and left us boomers the mess.

Lee Ensminger (@guest_18452)
5 years ago
Reply to  booneyrat

“The post WWII generation got the cream and left us boomers the mess.”

You mean the generation of people who saved civilization from Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito? Those folks? Way too many of them never survived to enjoy any “cream.” And those who did deserved ANY “cream” they might have gotten. I see your Vietnam service ribbon, so I would think you’d know better. I, too, am a boomer, and I think we share plenty of responsibility for today’s mess.

Richard (@guest_18157)
5 years ago

We are in Quartzsite, AZ for the winter and it clearly is a place where one can live inexpensively on a fixed income but even here there is a significant number of folks living with absolutely no shelter. I can’t imagine how they get through the relatively cold desert nights.

Stanley Sokolow (@guest_18175)
5 years ago
Reply to  Richard

The answer is “propane”…. Small portable propane heaters are the way they do it. A parody on Eric Clapton’s song “Cocaine” tells touts the virtues of propane:

Roger (@guest_18147)
5 years ago

Unfortunately lots of RV’s and even many low end RV parks are becoming modern day slums. And for the ones who can’t afford the parks, it’s even worse – no sewer hookups so yes, it does end up on the streets. It’s very sad all around, especially when you see children caught up in their parents situation.

Jeff (@guest_18124)
5 years ago

The NPR article touched on the problem. Unsanitary conditions.

As a former Truck Driver, I seen it everyday with Filthy Dirty Drivers who would discard their Waste on the side of the road in Rest Areas and on the side of the road.

This is a problem that needs to be addressed, since it will only get worse.

Plus the fact the FIRE Hazard is incredible. For people who SMOKE and have little training or understanding about Fire safety, this can be a DEADLY combination.

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