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Why are some RVers so controversial? And exactly who are they?

Opinion — By Randall Brink
Throughout 2022, RVtravel.com has published news and opinion about the growing sociological-political issue of homeless persons residing in RVs in urban areas. In growing numbers, the so-called “RV homeless” park on city streets, on municipal lots, and on unused commercial property. Most often they gather to create camps that offer some semblance of community and safety in numbers.

A rising crescendo of objection to the encampments has resulted in municipalities conducting “sweeps” to evict people and vehicles. Sometimes they offer a shelter alternative to the nomadic RVers and sometimes they simply shunt them to another location, only to repeat the process again in a week or so. Some cities have created “safe parking” areas to end the stressful “sweeps.”

Conflicts between homeless persons and governments

The conflicting forces and objectives of homeless persons and governments spark confrontations. Those conflicts are manifesting themselves in a growing number of lawsuits being filed across the land against municipal policies and actions.

For example, a non-profit advocacy group has filed suit against the city of Fullerton, CA, on behalf of homeless people who live in RVs on the city streets without a permit required by municipal code. Housing Is a Human Right Orange County and individual Fullerton residents are plaintiffs in the action. The complaint alleges that the city’s code, which prohibits “stopping or parking any recreational vehicle on city streets without a valid City-issued permit” violates the California state constitution and has “resulted in the arbitrary and discriminatory expulsion of Orange County’s most vulnerable residents.” The suit seeks to obtain an injunction against enforcement of the ordinance on civil rights grounds. The co-founder of Housing Is a Human Right Orange County, Pat Davis, was quoted in The Orange County Register:

“Fullerton is one of many cities that are terribly cruel to people who are unhoused. We know that those who are living in their vehicle are under extreme financial and social hardship, trying to maintain their dignities and freedoms. This action will serve as a reminder to our city leaders, that those who have limited to no resources have important legal rights too.”

The litigation dissects important legal issues pertinent to most municipal governments today. RVtravel.com will continue to report on developments in this and the many other RV parking disputes pending across the country.

However, there are questions raised by the government policies and actions that are not necessarily directly addressed in the pending lawsuits.

Are the “RV homeless” homeless?

Many RVers live full-time in their motorhomes, trailers, and vans. Many have forsaken their real property homes for a life on the road. They do not consider themselves homeless.

So, what distinguishes the full-time RVer from the homeless RVer?

One word: Resources.

The RVer on the road is free and has the wherewithal to move about the country. They are not confined by impecunious circumstances to live in urban encampments. RVers who choose the RV travel lifestyle do so by choice. Most urban RV homeless people do not. Further, many homeless RVers exist in rigs that are not roadworthy, not licensed, have little or no insurance, and the homeless dweller lacks the resources to repair, insure, and fuel their vehicle for the road.

Are the “RV homeless” RVers?

Barring insurmountable mechanical breakdowns and the financial inability to maintain their RVs, it is reasonable to surmise that many if not most homeless persons would flee the vexed urban encampments for wide-open spaces and seek surcease of law enforcement harassment. They cannot escape, and there is no clear way to enable them to do so without breaking the cycle of poverty and lack of choices central to their existence. RVs will be a shelter of choice for people as long as they have no other choice.

But the problem of urban RV homeless living must somehow be moved out of the cities.

Having hundreds of derelict vehicles lining the sides of city streets and every open public lot cannot be considered a long-term solution. As the cities in general become more crowded, the public policy conflicts surrounding safety, waste, and fire will only get worse.

What about the wide-open spaces of the American West

I again invite attention to the wide-open spaces of the American West. Some of accessible domains of this land—roughly 640 million acres “owned” by the U.S. federal government, and other millions of acres held in land trusts and by the governments of the states, could possibly be put to better use by housing people. Some people might live in RVs if the vehicles could be adequately maintained. Others might live in tiny homes or dwellings created by 3D printers or other manufactured homes.

These questions require reflection and serious thought aimed at solutions that go beyond moving RV dwellers from city streets to abandoned lots to vehicle impoundment yards like pawns in a political chess game.

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Matthew
1 month ago

What about the people who are working in the area. Maybe not making enough to fix thing up or get a house for whatever reason. However, moving them out of the city also takes away the jobs and other support such as public transportation. There is usually a reason they are there.

Darla
1 month ago

My heart goes out to people who lack the resources to climb Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There is no single solution. As we move from a 30,000 foot view toward a 10 foot view, solutions become bespoke, tailored, custom to the needs of the individual. Without a doubt, no solution exists without enough compassion to seek to understand.

Why is it important for this newsletter to address? Because the 30,000 foot view of “RVers” for those in fancy hotels, Airbnbs, etc. we all look the same.

Admin
Diane McGovern
1 month ago
Reply to  Darla

Very deep, but very true, Darla. Thank you. And thank you for introducing me to Maslow. Take care. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com

Julie schaul of Santa Cruz fulltimers
1 month ago

Ignorance is indeed bliss. Haha 😃🤣🤣😂😃🤣 ya’ll obviously haven’t had the unfortunate experience of dealing with domestic terrorist vigilantes who vandalize RVs, injure fulltimers, harass women, children, disabled and older people too. I hope you never have to endure the hate and trauma that many advocates and accidental activists have survived. But if you do, will you have the fortitude to be inspired and activated enough to fight for the right to live peacefully in an RV and so stand up for what is right?

Jean
1 month ago

I had no idea my faith in humanity would be blown by reading the comments on an article on an RV site. The lack of compassion for fellow human beings, the judgement – appalling and disheartening.
As a disabled houseless/homeless fulltime RVer with enough resources to occasionally afford a nice campsite in my travels, I sincerely hope I don’t end up with you as my neighbors.
Please keep in mind that a catastrophic illness and half a million in medical bills truly don’t care that you’ve done everything “right” in your life.
There but for the grace of God go I.
Practice kindness.
Some of you should be ashamed.

Admin
Diane McGovern
1 month ago
Reply to  Jean

Thank you for your very important reminder, Jean. Yes, some people can be less than understanding and, in fact, even come across as heartless at times. Thank goodness the vast majority of our readers, and RVers in general, care about their fellow human beings and are caring and compassionate. We could delete the negative comments, but we also believe in freedom of speech (unless someone is too nasty, then they’re out of here!). We are sorry to learn about your unfortunate circumstances (obviously beyond your control), and wish you well. We hope you have a Merry Christmas, in spite of your hardships, and wish you a much better 2023. Sending you a big hug. Take care. 🙂 –Diane at RVtravel.com

Phil Arizola
1 month ago
Reply to  Jean

This traveler wrote “The lack of compassion for fellow human beings, the judgement – appalling and disheartening.”
Then shares “I sincerely hope I don’t end up with you as my neighbors.”
Tolerant? Compassion for fellow travelers who don’t “think like you? Confused?

TrenaD
1 month ago

It’s been my experience with the homeless community in the state in which I live, that some, (not all definitely), are homeless because, well, they want to be. I know that sounds presumptuous of me to say, but hear me out. Where I live, there are many churches and similar organizations that do so much for the homeless population. They give them food, clothing, backpacks full of toiletries, blankets etc. I feel some take advantage of the kindness of these organization and people. I’ll probably get a lot of negativity for this statement, but I know homeless people who have been given opportunities that could improve their progress and for whatever reason, their hooked on drugs or they just down right don’t want to, they refuse these opportunities because it’s easier to just accept the handouts instead of getting a job. $250 or $350 monthly could get you a lot at any RV or trailer park . Water and electrical hookups included. There are solutions to house RV’s. No need for public parking.

Phil Arizola
1 month ago
Reply to  TrenaD

The least expensive RV site w hookup in southern California are running $1200 and up plus electric costs.
The days of $300-500 per month are long gone on most of the west coast.

Phil Arizola
1 month ago

As someone with “resources” living full time by choice. Having scaled back my entire lifestyle and traditional home. Now I find myself “living” on the road with a seemingly huge target on me. A target that apparently “screams” for those with less “resources ” to constantly attempt to steal from those of us whom have chosen a life on the road. Recently when I caught and confronted the thief who cut locks and stole a $3k ebike from my state park site, stated when asked why he was stealing “you’ve got all this nice stuff and I don’t, I deserve it too, you’ve got more than enough “! How does one respond? The Dept. of Veterans Affairs, now classifies me as “homeless” despite being a retired decorated combat Veteran with resources. It seems that until the current laws and regulations are actually enforced and some folks are ” allowed” to hit rock bottom without the government propping them up on welfare, just enough free money and food to stay homeless, the problem will get worse.

Natalie
1 month ago

If there was a fine… thousands$$ per day… for homes and apartments left empty for years, just to Trade the property around as an investment vehicle for wealthy over seas oligarchs we wouldn’t have nearly as many people living below their aspirations. And the fines could be used to support the people who still work in the places where they can no longer afford to sleep. Pushing people into unsettled land isn’t going to solve anything.

Larry Nelson
26 days ago
Reply to  Natalie

Yes, its all the fault of the greedy rich. They must be stopped!! As stated in one of the first comments, we all have a right to housing, period. It must be written somewhere. Also, I am pretty sure we have a right to “tat”. A right to acquire nose rings. A right to a decent bass boat (mine has a hole in it). A right to get a pair of $300 sneakers. Flat screen TV. Ebikes. Iphones. Oh and I forgot one last thing……who is John Galt?

Karen Grace
1 month ago

It is disheartening to read so many of these responses that seem so condemning and critical of people who are “unhoused.” As my grandmother would say, “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

Michael Galvin
1 month ago

Full-timers are “houseless” but not “homeless.”

KellyR
1 month ago

There are evidently many definitions of RVing, summer/weekend campers, travelers, full timers, just plain rovers, and park models?? . Being homeless doesn’t seem to me to have anything how one survives whether under the stars in a cardboard box or in a run down what used to be RV. It disheartens me that we, the elite, that can afford these, frankly unnecessary toys, have decided that the “homeless “RVers” want to be there, are on drugs or alcohol, and want to live that way. Every year I look at my age, rising property taxes, auto insurance, and stupidly rising home insurance, not to mention inflation in general, and pray I do not become homeless before the end of my days. Survival may just be my getting rid of my beloved little “B”. The fact that people are homeless in an old RV is nothing but nothing. Someone once said, “Its the economy stupid”. We have to pay people and have an affordable place to live.

John Gregorio
1 month ago

Another org https://vehicleresidency.org/

Google “wicked problem” for the big picture of why this situation, like most today, is challenging

Wolfe
1 month ago

This doesn’t seem complicated to me… The US Constitution guarantees “equal protection under the law,” NOT “do whatever you want whereever you want.” So, if Homer can park whereever Homeless does, we’re equal. Except I’d get a ticket parking in the city, another for dumping tanks on the city streets, another for pirating power, another for impeding business, another… … then I’d be expected to pay for all those tickets. So, tolerating Homeless consuming and often destroying what others build and others pay for is NOT equality. To be clear, I’m ALL for charity and helping them get on their feet, but you don’t do that by “tolerance” that just means watching them live in the gutter.

Second, the author is dead wrong that “Government owns the land” — the RVs in question are squatting on PRIVATE land (in front of businesses which they harm, or houses that the owners pay taxes on, etc), or PUBLIC land that taxpayers pay for.

Glen
1 month ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Government don’t own sh*t. The tax payers own it

Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen

If you believe that then go ahead and drive away in a police car.

captain gort
1 month ago

This little internet blogpaper should consider changing its name. “RV and Travel” would indicate catering to the people who buy RVs to travel and recreate in. They now seem to be drifting into the world and issues of static live-aboards which is entirely different in every respect from true RVing. I suspect this is because that’s where much of the “growth” of the “RV” industry has been for the past couple of years- people buying these to live in full time and generally in one place, not traveling for recreation. In other words, in lieu of a traditional house. Perhaps “Mobile Home Life” would be a better name.

John Gregorio
1 month ago
Reply to  captain gort

We travel and recreate in a social and political context. These environments are evolving. Definitely tracking it all as part of situational awareness.

Michael Sullivan
1 month ago

Because of a long term rental market gone crazy in competition with vacation rentals taking over any long term solutions, because of discrimination in public housing, we opted for a truck and trailer. I had no idea how difficult life would be just trying to function with a 9-5, my credit overloaded on expensive campground fees. Then I was laid off, moved to a cheaper place to live and then we lost it all when we established our legal resident rights in a city owned campground. People don’t choose full time RV life unless it’s the only option to survive and those who do sell their homes and choose to travel often find themselves as the full time houseless, especially as funds dwindle. There is no reason for judgment on either side of this scale but there is also no reason homes in single family zoning should be used as any sort of investment properties while the community is left stranded and harassed by people who just don’t understand or care to.

Paul
1 month ago

Michael, your definition of Full time is a bit limited. There are many people who have chosen the full time lifestyle freely. A growing number are working full time from the road. Others have retired and choose to live in their RVs either in one or more places or moving among camping location. This is not a low cost lifestyle and most of the fulltime RVers I know have the means to sustain it and also the means to hang up the keys and return to fixed living. I recognize that you state you are not in that position.

captain gort
1 month ago

Simple: If there is a permited, permanent full hookup….no problem. Welcome!
If not: Move on. No Parking!

Rod
1 month ago

I think the RV industry is getting a bum rap. I think we need to change what an RV is used for. RV stands for recreational vehicle. They are used for recreation. If you dont use it for its intended purpose, then what is it? Like a gun, do you buy it for protection, or to kill someone? Why dont we just outlaw the use of RVs by homeless people like we outlaw the use of guns to those who are mentally ill? Lets give them all background checks that allow the government to indiscrimately weed out all homeless people regardless of their situation. Then you can round up all the homeless and bus them to Washinton DC and have them take care of them all.

dan
19 days ago
Reply to  Rod

you are obviously trolling, but

letting the government to indiscrimately weed out all <xxxxx> people
seems like a very bad idea

Joseph Phebus
1 month ago

Painting people with a broad brush e.g. most are addicts, they choose to be this way, they are lazy and want handouts etc. is depressing in its lack of compassion and wanting to find solutions that improve communities and address suffering.

The causes of homelessness are myriad. It could be addiction, mental illness, physical health issues, poverty or a catastrophic event like a failed marriage or loss of home and assets. No, most people don’t choose homelessness, but once you are in the cycle of poverty, or addiction, or a failed health-care system that addresses symptoms not underlying causes and long term rehabilitation its near impossible to get out.

With average rents in cities (near jobs) over $1000 a month first and last to get in, no furniture, barely clothes on ones back, rising food prices and $50 in your pocket as your only assets, go ahead pull yourself out of that. Its not laziness, its lack of handhold to break the cycle of poverty and/or addiction.

Capt. Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

Well said.

Kevin
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

You are spot on with this observation. We have a daughter with health problems which if not for our support would no doubt have left her homeless. I consider myself a conservative but that doesn’t mean ignoring those who for no fault of their own find themselves struggling to simply survive. Try engaging in a conversation with some of these folks as I have done, you will be shocked at the circumstances that lead to these people ending up in this situation. Are there those who abuse the social safety net, sure, but we can’t paint all homeless with that same broad brush as the IP of this post said!

Capt. Jim
1 month ago

When a tornado blows a town in Alabama to bits, public, private and charitable money and people pour in providing food, shelter, and medical care. But then, of course, those and the “good” people and deserve to be helped. Being poor, homeless, addicted just doesn’t qualify.

Duane
1 month ago
Reply to  Capt. Jim

Uh, Jim, the difference is that the rebuilding of a natural-disaster area enables people who were contributing members of society to continue their productive lifestyles. Cities have thrown hundreds of millions of dollars per city at the homeless problem, with no benefit. Many of the homeless don’t want help, nor do they want a home. The homeless who want help can get it in any major city. You can’t force many of the homeless to alter their lifestyle to be self-supporting, as they don’t want to be self-supporting.

Julie Schaul
1 month ago
Reply to  Duane

Beware of ableist ideology. Some may never be “work ready”. That does not make them less human (sub human). That does not make them worthy of contempt. All have a right to dignity, civil rights, ada rights, human rights

John Gregorio
1 month ago

> “I again invite attention to the wide-open spaces of the American West”

“Homes On Wheels Alliance (HOWA) is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to helping people get into safe and secure homes on wheels. Our largest need-based programs are the Nomad Emergency Fund and the Grants & Improvements of Vehicles. We also bring nomads together for learning and community at the In-Person CaravansVirtual Caravans, and at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTRs).

https://homesonwheelsalliance.org/

HOWARD SCHILLER
1 month ago
Reply to  John Gregorio

The wide-open spaces of the American West were set aside to preserve the land and make it available for all to enjoy, not to become an encampment of “Homeless RVers” that would surely trash the place like many have done to the cities streets they are now on. Where would these folks get their water, food, etc.? Where are they going to work or panhandle, how about medical support and law enforcement? What about their waste/trash? Who’s going to build the infrastructure to support them? “The wide-open spaces of the American West”, bad idea!

Wolfe
1 month ago

Absolutely agree with Howard. The same people objecting to “colonizing Mars because we screwed up Earth” are perfectly fine with screwing up the rest of Earth as a “human right” that doesn’t exist IMHO.

Spike
1 month ago

“…it is reasonable…that many…homeless persons would flee the…encampments for wide-open spaces and seek surcease of law enforcement harassment.”

So enforcing existing laws is “harassment?”

While I agree there is a huge issue, deriding law enforcement for doing their thankless and underpaid but absolutely critical jobs is not part of the answer!

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