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RVers: Who are we? How are we perceived? Good, bad, unfortunate?

By Scott Linden
Hey, RVer – In some people’s eyes, you’re a bum, a trespasser, arsonist or worse. Stick with me a minute and I’ll bet you agree … sort of.

The number of “houseless” Americans has ballooned. We know that, they know that, bureaucrats who work for us know that, and so does law enforcement. Here’s the rub: A significant number of those folks are living in RVs … and news media often don’t differentiate between your shiny lifestyle-oriented rig poised in the driveway for the next adventure, and the eyesore of a blue-tarp-clad wreck broken down on a city street in a puddle of motor oil. Yep, you are them, and vice-versa.

What’s also swelled is the number of crimes committed in, on, around, to, or by those “RVers.” Maybe you’ve lost a valuable keepsake to burglary or been threatened, saw something go up in flames or heard a horror story. To many, “RV” and “homeless” are associated inadvertently or purposely by news media, government agencies and regulators, police and, thus, the public. Read your own newspaper or watch your TV news. We are tarred with the same brush as that subset of RV dwellers who have nowhere else to go, who choose to break the law.

From littering to drive-by shootings, public urination to drug abuse, trespassing to murder, all “RVers” are thrown under the bus for the acts of a few desperate (and some genuinely evil) individuals who perpetrate those offenses from their RV.

It’s a fact that many of our former allies – Walmart, Cabela’s, local park districts, are changing their tune, citing as their reason bad actors who trashed their parking lots and scared off legitimate customers. Hostility to anyone is hostility to everyone who loves the RV lifestyle. As a mayor of Las Vegas said decades ago, “The reputation of our community depends on you, me, and us.

Yep, sometimes one bad apple does spoil the whole basketful.
Who cares? You do. Got a notice from the city prohibiting parking your rig on the street? Does a subconscious fear of RVers fuel opposition to more legitimate RV parks being built? In my own town, a semi-sensible solution – creating a safe parking place for houseless RV users – is under attack due to well-founded fear. Nearby residents believe some of those “RVers” will be burglarizing their homes and threatening their children as they walk to school.

Vigilante time? Probably not. But we can grab our verbal pitchforks and torches. We can demand that local officials enforce existing laws, think creatively, oppose unwise “solutions” devised without public input, make taxpayers’ needs a priority over transients, and expect our elected officials to create realistic, cost-effective, permanent solutions to the homeless (RV) situation.

At other times we might stow those metaphorical pitchforks and torches and pick up shovels and rakes. Pitch in, do something constructive, find compassion, write letters to the editor, mobilize on social media … be part of the solution, whether it’s sitting on a committee, testifying at a city council meeting, or volunteering.

Because, ultimately, the problem is yours, theirs, and ours.

If you choose to comment, be kind. Nasty comments will be deleted and readers who made them banned from commenting again. 


TRIVIA: In a recent survey, what percent of RVtravel.com readers reported they had been locked out of their RVs once or more? About 15 percent, 34 percent or 52 percent. The answer is here

##RVT1030b

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Carson Axtell
7 months ago

There is certainly a percentage of the RVing population that is either criminal or incapacitated by drug/mental health issues, or both, just as it is in the general population. But, the public perception of all RVers as belonging to this population is in large measure the doing of sensationalist, money-grubbing media and politicians. The incentive structure of this publicity-seeking class of our society makes them the real threat to our future, IMO.

Vincee
7 months ago

A lot of this article is written from the West Coast perspective. From Vancouver, Seattle, and down the coast through Kalifornia down to Baja Mexico it is pretty well known of the homeless problem facing most if not all of the Western states. A lot of this has to do with their outrageous tax structures and the public service unions that almost by themselves are pushing these states near financial collapse. Sixty Minutes had a piece earlier this year highlighting the tent cities in Seattle and speaking to one young lady who was a U.S Postal Carrier making in excess of $100K per year who lived in a tent in a public park. Back East when someone mentions they have an RV of some type when in a public setting the comments we receive are more of the “we have always talked about doing that/getting one and the adventure” then people looking down on us like we will be parked in front of their house dumping our waste tanks into the street.

Carson Axtell
7 months ago
Reply to  Vincee

The West Coast states, from Seattle down to San Diego, are all facing budget SURPLUSES, not financial collapse. Just google the facts. And the reason there are so many homeless in these states is both because housing is so expensive, and because the winter weather is so much more survivable there than it is on the East Coast. People like good weather, even the poor and the homeless, and low supply and high demand pushes up the cost of housing in popular areas like the West Coast. And much of this increase in housing cost is driven by investment companies that buy up housing, including entire condo/apartment buildings and housing developments, as a safe place to park funds and generate income through rentier economics, just like some are doing with RV parks…

Last edited 7 months ago by Carson Axtell
Tim
7 months ago
Reply to  Vincee

The east coast has the same problems. Just left RV campground where our “neighbors” lived in a run down RV that looks like it will only move with the help of a sawzall and a dumpster. Very rude. Hunting season started and if you want to go hunting, fine, go hunting.
But when you are living in your RV you do not invite your friends over to meet up to head out at 4:30AM on a Saturday morning. Especially when the spaces are so close. They had their friends park in the empty spot next to us which was so tight it meant their truck doors were less than two feet from our bed slide. Nothing but loud talking and banging and slamming doors for about a half hour before they started their loud exhaust, bomb trucks up and left.
Amazes me that somebody thinks living in an RV is so great when in fact they can actually rent an apartment for cheaper and have about double to triple the room.
I guess that proves they do have “mental” issues.

Lisa Wood
7 months ago
Reply to  Vincee

States With The Largest Homeless Population Per Capita In The US
1.New York
2.Hawaii
3.California
4.Oregon
5.Washington
6.Massachusetts
7.Alaska
8.Nevada
9.Vermont
10.Colorado

paul smith
7 months ago

When I was growing up, there were two classes of housing Owners and apartment renters. Then the concept of condos and townhomes came along and now they are the norm. Over the last decade, RV parks have gone from 20 percent permanent to 80 percent permanent. RV parks are mis-named. They are no longer for Recreation, they are a new form of affordable housing which is also now the norm. Now I dont have an objection to a family living in a nice 5th wheel, if thats what they can afford to keep a roof over their head. Most of the people I see are trades people going off to work in the morning. Their pickups have welder, contractor, drywall guy signs on the side. The KOA in Boise and SLC have their own school bus stops. Yes, the politicians should enforce the laws regarding people living in them in neighborhoods., I decided to face reality, permanent housing in RV parks is here to stay, Im just going to have to be more creative when Im on the road.

Dennis G.
7 months ago

Glad you wrote this article. Have mentioned before that my family and I have been harassed and accused of being that “homeless in the RV”.
We own a lot 1996 class-a. It used to be my parents. It’s still immaculate, but we all get lumped together.

Viper
7 months ago

After 50 years of camping and rving we are about to give up because of the things you mention in the article. We have taught our kids, grandkids, and now great grandkids to each pick up one bag of trash each time we camp. If everyone did this things would be much better. However, after talking with some of these folks you describe and witnessing them discarding trash, I find they just don’t care. Ever heard of “you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.”?

Kenny G
7 months ago

RVers, whether vacationers or full-timers, are people who by choice pay to rent a space in private or public campgrounds overnight. Homeless staying in RVs are people who by necessity look for public streets or lots to park their RV overnight and for extended periods for as long as possible, for free. These two groups by definition are at opposite ends of the spectrum. With minor exceptions, the first group would never contemplate defiling a public street, park or place intended for the health, safety and well being of society. The latter group sees public places as their own to be used and consumed in any manner they deem fit without obligation. That was never the intent of creating these public places. The laws concerning use of public streets and places need to be enforced for the public heath, safety and well being of ALL people.

MrDisaster
7 months ago

Wow! many posters have taken a pretty defensive position (it’s not me…). Some are bashing local policies that are dealing with the houseless issue. So what is the solution? (Or some of the solutions?) Do we criminalize the behavior? “Enforce the laws” Do we tow away the vehicles? Do we run them out of town? That just moves them to be someone else’s problem and solves nothing. Are there humane and compassionate solutions? How can (or will) we help provide positive outcomes? Let’s see the collective mind of the readers provide some solutions.

Chuck
7 months ago
Reply to  MrDisaster

Spoken like a deep blue, dyed in the wool. Democrat. Yes, for goodness sake enforce the laws. Humane, compassionate treatment hasn’t worked, or have you checked the crime stats in your area lately. No, i don’t know where you live, doesn’t matter, crime is up everywhere mostly due to relaxed bail, diminished police enforcement. and a failure of the justice system where dangerous criminals are released in droves. We’ve had 50 years of “humane” strategies and it hasn’t worked, no matter how much money you throw at the less fortunate. Here’s a solution; enforce the laws, jail the offenders and increase, not decease policing. There are plenty of options available to the needy. Many of these people making our lives more dangerous, don’t want the help. Look it up, it may surprise you and your delicate sensibilities.

MrDisaster
7 months ago
Reply to  Chuck

Now there’s a solution. Put the scofflaws in jail. That’ll work in the short term, but what then? There’re going to be released from jail at some point. Not much compassion but a legitimate response. And it’s not about my “delicate sensibilities” (don’t need to insult anyone). Just looking to see if others have ideas for solutions. Thanks for your input.

Carol-Leah Loran
7 months ago
Reply to  Chuck

If the money that would go into incarcerating the homeless went into building affordable housing for them they wouldn’t have to live in junk RVs on city streets.

Roamin’ Red
7 months ago
Reply to  Chuck

So your reply politicizes and vilifies someone who is espousing a humanitarian point of view and asking for creative solutions. As to crime, per the FBI, property and violent crime are at historic lows (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/topic-pages/tables/table-1). I don’t know where you get the figure of 50 years of ‘“humane” strategies’”, but the fact that the numbers of people who can’t afford housing (including many who are enployed) have increased dramatically over the past 40 years does indeed call for creative solutions and widespread cooperation. Are some messed up? Definitely. Are the majority? Not so much. Please check out https://nationalhomeless.org/

Snayte
7 months ago
Reply to  Roamin’ Red

He won’t

Arnold
7 months ago

Jus
doesn’t sell newspapers

Marc Stauffer
7 months ago
Reply to  Arnold

My thought on the homeless RV issue is to take a page out of history and recreate the CCC. I have talked with folks that had experience with it back in the depression days. Was it a perfect solution? No. It had it’s issues but it did lift folks up and out of their desperate situations. It did strengthen families, offer educational and job training opportunities, give folks hope through basic life skills training, rehab those that were addicted to substance abuse, strengthen self worth, provide housing food and clothes, and at the same time helped cleanup our communities and grow and strengthen our national resources through good old fashioned hard work. The cost to the nation to execute the program was minor in comparison to what it did for our citizens and infrastructure. Read about it and let government know that you support such a solution.

Arnold
7 months ago

Reply to Jus
The News Media mainly reports the worst part of the story, it seldom tells the whole story. Goods News does sell newspapers

Uncle Swags
7 months ago

This appears to be a California or west coast problem where rights come with no responsibilities. Comparing those people to RVers is like saying Nomadland was a movie about RVing. The growth in homelessness reflects the failures of parenting and education in preparing children for the challenges presented by life. Self esteem, self respect and honoring your family name has been replaced by selfishness.

Roamin’ Red
7 months ago
Reply to  Uncle Swags

It’s a problem here in Florida. And Texas. And New Mexico. And Virginia. And West Virginia. And Georgia. And other places we’ve been. It’s a big, sprawling, messy nationwide problem that simply can’t be reduced to a few causes. It’s going to take many different approaches to find solutions, and and a lot of effort and cooperation between government at every level (municipal, county, state) and the people living anywhere there are unhoused people.

Bob
7 months ago

We live in San Francisco, the home of the most leftist Democratic government in the country. There are currently over 800 non-moving RV’s being used as housing, many accompanied by growing piles of trash around them. Our city leaders JUST approved a parking lot for about 60 Rv’s, a drop in the proverbial ocean, but that’s all. Police won’t even ticket them, much less tow them. It’s all about being “compassionate to our most vulnerable”. Sometimes signs go up saying, “No overnight parking”, a waste of sheet metal and paint. IF laws were enforced, the situation wouldn’t be as bad as it is. Allow it, and they will come—-and stay.

Jake
7 months ago

I’m so glad you wrote this article. I have seen the perception of the RV community decline over the last 3.5 years since I first started RV’ing (full time). This also applies to the recreational camping community, where a lot of new/bad weekend tent campers displayed similar horrible behavior. Out in the desert BLM lands, RVers are intimidating or fighting each other over informal campsites, crowding each other, attacking pets, fighting over generator use, etc. The forums and Facebook groups have these bad stories every day, and some folks are loudly encouraging the bad behavior. The glamorization of RV’ing and publicizing of previously-hidden campsites has attracted new or bad campers to places that had never seen bad behavior or litter before. As a campground manager in the forest, I agree most campers/RVers are good, but I never get to see them because the few bad ones demand all our attention.

Jake
7 months ago
Reply to  Jake

Forest and BLM personnel are overwhelmed with calls to address crime or issues. Once the decision makers start reviewing too many crime reports, or once they have to discuss paying overtime or adding staff they can’t afford, closing these lands down to the public is going to rise to the surface as an attractive option.

We can’t solve the problem of the crazies and criminals, but we can start working on the new RVers and other sane actors’ behavior. Let’s talk to each other individually when we see bad behavior. Let’s also be open and respectful when a fellow RVer voices a concern to us. Let’s lead by example. Let’s be seen cleaning up our campsites (and around our Walmart spots) and public lands. Let’s get along with each other without fighting.

Firefly
7 months ago

It’s pretty clear that empathy is dead.

Adorable Deplorable
7 months ago

Yep

david
7 months ago

RVers: Who are we? How are we perceived? Good, bad, unfortunate? A box full of “crappy pet owner” undisciplined barking dogs ready to dump and {bleeped} on the lawn at every stop: is what I hear from most people’s complaints about RV-ers.

Steve W.
7 months ago

Looks like it’s time for RV Travel to publish articles featuring RVers who have loaned out their RV to accommodate healthcare workers, or rescue personnel; who have used their RVs to transport rescued animals to new, forever homes, etc. Accentuate the positive.

Adorable Deplorable
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve W.

There are many GOOD people out there, the issue is the BAD are always louder than the good. Lawlessness the the “watch’ word right now. So the break down of our society means YOU need to understand who and what you support. Yes there are good people, you mentioned many and I am one of them. I try constantly to help out when I can. People would be surprised to find out I am not liberal but there you go.

Joan Richardson
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve W.

And, loaned to families who lost their homes due to horrific forest fires.

Teresa Simons
7 months ago

I live near Eugene, Oregon where the city of Eugene has created a homeless RV area and other areas for homeless that live in tents. It isn’t the best solution but it is a start to help the homeless get off the streets and have basic services provided to them by the city like porta potties and clean water and food. I’m all for having safe areas for those that are homeless to stay in as it gets them off the doorways of stores and out of the city parks, etc. It isn’t the best solution to homelessness but it is a start.

Adorable Deplorable
7 months ago
Reply to  Teresa Simons

Unfortunately Teresa I do not agree, although I would like to. All it does is hide the problem and those homeless areas become dangerous, why? Because many of the homeless are dangerous. Yes, Teresa, sometimes life stinks we just have to do a better job in managing it and sometimes the answer demands we be tough. Many people can’t do tough.

Jackie
7 months ago
Reply to  Teresa Simons

Housing First program in Finland has worked and is being adopted by several countries.

The Lazy Q
7 months ago

I’m all for it.

The Lazy Q
7 months ago
Reply to  The Lazy Q

Accidentally posted on wrong article.

Joan Richardson
7 months ago
Reply to  The Lazy Q

Amen… It would be great if more cities would/could do that.

David
7 months ago

We started F/T 2 yrs ago.
We have a 39 ft 2001 Bounder DP and have never been turned down and we normally stay in KOA’s as per our choice.
We sometimes hit the Pilot to spend the night in mid-travels and have never stayed in a Walmart parking lot.
We have stayed in a park or 2 that were full of mobil homes ( some nice and some not), have seen a few that dont have running water in them Yuk!
Traveled up and down the W coast twice.
We also use a mail service, not cheap, but when the wife turned 62 and filed for her SS they categorize us as homeless, lol.
Get a load of that BS!
Having a Great time and loving the lifestyle and meeting a lot of wonderful people.
So categorized as homeless is actually quite funny.
Reminds a person of Westerns when pioneers were traveling and the land barons tried to run them off lol.
Having a 40’ MH pulling a toad aint cheap to say the least as most of you know.
Our home is on wheels and we love it.
The USA is a Great country!

Adorable Deplorable
7 months ago
Reply to  David

Good for you. Have fun and stay safe.

The Lazy Q
7 months ago

Vigilante time? Probably not. But we can grab our verbal pitchforks and torches. We can demand that local officials enforce existing laws, think creatively, oppose unwise “solutions” devised without public input, make taxpayers’ needs a priority over transients, and expect our elected officials to create realistic, cost-effective, permanent solutions to the homeless (RV) situation…

4th sentence says it all and this applies to every idiotic new law these feel good politicians and the people who vote for them continue to repeat. Welcome to the world of our constitutional infringements especially the 2A, the one that specifically says shall not be infringed. Yet over 20000 illegal laws on the books curtailing OUR, yours and mine, rights whether you use it or not.

The justice system is broken, hold our politicians and judges accountable.

By the way, the lousy big city mayors are buying RVs now for the homeless. I think this will add to the problem not help but hey, I did something

Adorable Deplorable
7 months ago
Reply to  The Lazy Q

Yep, what you said! Vote them out.

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