A couple of weeks ago, my “Around the Campfire” article entitled “RVers discuss homelessness in campgrounds” received a lot of attention. In the comments section following the article, many readers offered their opinions about homelessness and its effect on campgrounds. We heard from campground owners, RVers, and campground workers. A few homeless or previously homeless folks also weighed in.
As I reviewed all of the comments, it solidified my belief that our society’s homelessness is an extremely complex issue. No two situations are exactly the same and so finding “one solution for all” has not and will not work.
I also found that homelessness evokes quite strong emotions, and I appreciate those folks who took the time to voice their opinion clearly and succinctly without rancor. Here are just a few of the many, many comments we received.
More homeless in campgrounds?
Tom A. offered, “Recently camped at San Clemente State Beach (CA State Park). There were no fewer than ten encampments in the visitor parking and day-use area. Some appeared to be living out of their cars, vans, and/or RVs and others may have been just moving through.”
Drew said, “We go to an RV park often that is pretty much off the beaten path. Until about two years ago they had very few instances of homelessness there. Then a few weeks ago there was a man who came in and asked if he could use the BBQ pit a couple of spaces away. (The pits are furnished by the park.) He then put a can of food directly in the fire until it exploded—making a mess. Another woman came into another area of the park and asked if she could lay down on a patch of lawn near another site. She slept there for a few hours then got up and left. These instances were both pretty harmless, but we’ve seen more of this lately.”
Greg S. commented, “We had an older guy next to us in Florida two years ago in an old 5th wheel. He had no idea how to do anything RV related. I knew this was all he had, so I helped him as much as I could… He was doing his best to survive.”
It may be a matter of where you camp with your RV. Neal D. said, “We have not noticed any apparent homelessness in any campgrounds in our travels. We did have an instance of a squatter once, several years ago (2017).”
Campground owners/camp hosts weigh in on homeless in campgrounds
Lucinda T., a camp host said, “Some years ago we camp hosted in an urban campground that saw (over a 3-year period) an elderly woman with dementia get dropped off in a pop-up by her family; a suicide; a fire in an old motorhome; and ‘full-timers’ who were really working poor just scraping by…. Campground owners are not social workers…. The homeless problem overflowed into the campground years ago.”
Campground owner Bill T. offered his perspective: “I am a campground owner and know from first-hand experience the effects of the housing dilemma. I offer seasonal sites, as well as monthly sites, and it’s the monthly customers that put me right in the middle of the crisis. I failed to see the effects of renting out monthly until it was too late. I have had to intervene in substance abuse, domestic violence, and even threats of violence against me personally, dealing with folks that are just an inch above being homeless. I lost three of my seasonal customers due to the problems … over $6,000 in revenue. I have had some success in helping people out of their difficult times by offering them an alternative means of living, but that’s been the exception, not the rule.”
Homeless or previously homeless commenters
Joe T. said, “This is a very interesting discussion considering I am one of those homeless people. My girlfriend and I were on the verge of losing our home that we rented due to my health brought on by substance abuse. We decided to take the show on the road. Big mistake…. I am now in recovery and trying to earn money as a rideshare driver…. Due to the state of the economy and my health, I do not think we will ever get out of the rut we are in. We frequent campgrounds with our tent and SUV. Unfortunately, even tenting has become too expensive. Crazy, right? We spend more time at rest stops over campgrounds. At night these rest stops all fill up with families who are homeless living out of a vehicle just like us.”
Tom E. also commented: “For a few short weeks I found myself homeless. I lived out of my van. If it were not for the kindness of a fellow worker, I too would have ended up out on the street, lost my job, my van, and [been left] to figure out how to find my way back to a roof over my head. I saved my money and rented out a basement apartment, continued to save, and eventually I was back into a home. Don’t judge [those] less fortunate.”
Some folks wanted readers to know that they are not “homeless.” Instead, they are “houseless” because they’ve chosen to live, work, and travel out of their RV. They do not own a stix-n-brix home, nor do they rent an apartment. Their RV rig is their home—and they are happy and content with that choice!
Solutions to homelessness?
While several commenters suggested that homeless folks “get a job,” others argued that the solution isn’t always that simple.
Frank asked, “Fill out an application: Address? None. Phone #? None. Will you get the job?”
Connie added, “My husband offered [a homeless person] a job several years ago and the guy turned him down. Said he made more holding his sign on street corners.”
Concern and frustration
Clearly, homelessness reaches into (and well beyond) campgrounds. It seems to be an issue that will continue to be debated. Please feel free to leave a comment but keep it polite and civil.