It’s a trend on the rise, though it’s illegal in Los Angeles County: people living in RVs on public streets.
Some RV dwellers don’t consider themselves homeless since they have shelter, and they see motor homes as a viable fiscal alternative to buying property or paying rent. Most, according to UCLA Professor of Law Gary Blasi, have no choice after losing their homes.
“They tend to be people who were working class folks, who in many cases may have had an RV when they also had a job. Some people have taken their last savings and moved out of their last apartment into an RV,” he explained. “There is sort of a standard trajectory of migrating down the housing ladder, and then being without stable housing, and then staying with friends and relatives as much as you can. And then for people who have a little bit of capital – access to an RV or a car.”
Blasi said RV-living has been increasing dramatically for the last 4 or 5 years, pushed along by unemployment rates.
“To read the newspaper and look at the stock market, you would think the economy is pretty much recovered or recovering, but we’re still in a real depression for great swaths of the population,” he said. “The unemployment rate for African Americans in L.A. County went from six percent to 22 percent in four years. For people under 25, it went from under 10 percent to 21 percent, and those statistics got reflected in what you see and often don’t see on the street.”
According to Blasi, RVs are easy to spot, but people often miss the homeless population that live in cars. Still, Venice police have been equally strict about getting RV and car dwellers out of their neighborhood, due to outcry from angry housed residents.
“Venice has responded pretty aggressively, both forcing people out of Venice and also impounding vehicles of people who don’t really have the means to retrieve them from impound,” he added.
That’s caused a significant dispersal of people living in RVs and cars out of Venice into other places. According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, there’s been a 66 percent increase in the number of homeless people living in motor vehicles in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.
From the phones:
Noah in North Hollywood called about people living in a large, “very expensive” RV in his neighborhood.
“I don’t think they have a financial problem ... they just chose to live in a large RV and they leave garbage on our street and they’ve blocked up five parking spaces every day.”
He said he understand that people unable to afford static housing seek shelter in cars, but those who live in mobile homes by choice are disrespectful.
“I’ve seen them occasionally and they’ll quickly hurry inside. They’ll try to avoid my gaze. They know that they’re not welcome there, that they’re staying somewhere that’s aggravating people, but they don’t make any effort to be very respectful,” he said.
Ramon from the Crenshaw district, 28, has been living in his car for nine months now. He said he recently paid off car loans, but he’s still tending to other financial responsibilities.
“I’m also accepting unemployment. To be honest, it doesn’t give you enough financial balance there so that you can balance a household and other finances, and eating and things of that nature. I’m not on drugs, I’m not an alcoholic, I’m none of that. I’m just young and I’ve made some bad financial moves, and I don’t have a lot of support from family so it’s really hard for me,” he said.
Ramon said he tries not to be a disturbance. “During the night, I might find somewhere that’s pretty clean and pretty quiet, and I’m usually out of here before anyone in the neighborhood would notice that someone is near,” he continued.
Richard in Venice said he’s been living with his wife in the area for 24 years, and the issue of RV dwellers has been the most polarizing issue anyone has had to deal with.
“You don’t want to be uncompassionate, but in our particular experience ... I personally one day counted over 60 [RVs] within a three block area. They were all barely movable,” he recalled. “These were definitely the bottom of the bottom rung as far as barely workable. The most unpleasant was that none of the mechanical systems really worked, so we saw on a regular basis, the inhabitants of these RVs dumping their human waste in the gutters.”
He said the area has been mostly cleared of illegally-parked RVs. “I don’t know how Councilman Rosenthal did it, but probably public outrage and lack of safety — they’re very aggressive people. Even all of the liberals finally said ‘We can’t take this anymore,’” he said.
Do you live in an area with RV dwellers? Should RV dwellers be allowed to park and live in residential areas?
Gary Blasi, Professor of Law, UCLA Law School, has been studying homeless issues in Los Angeles area for 35 years.