California city tries new approach to “RV homelessness”

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

craig howell on

Many big cities are wrestling with the issue of RV dwellers on their streets. Mountain View, California, is just another one of them. With rent prices in this Bay-area city shooting through the roof, many people don’t have fixed roofs to live under. By one account, at least 600 folks in the area call Mountain View’s streets “home” for themselves and their RVs.

Home values in Mountain View average $1.5 million. Many residents don’t cotton to having RVs in various states of decrepitude parked in their neighborhoods. The cry of complaint has reached the ears of government officials, and now partnering with a local church, the county hopes they’ve come up with a possible solution. The church has offered to issue permits to RV dwellers that will allow them to park their rigs on a church parking lot. Get the rigs off the streets, and into a “safe” location.

There are a couple of catches. Apparently the space in the church lot is just that – only a space. No utilities of any sort, no dump station. And RVers who take advantage of the space will need to be scrupulously watching the clock. In no earlier than 7:00 p.m., and out of the lot no later than 7:00 a.m. The permit to park would be good for a month, and during that time, the user would meet with a social service agency who would attempt to help them get out of their RVs and into fixed housing.

Google Street View

It might be a solution. A quick “drive” down Crisanto Avenue, using Google Street View, shows a scene from last September. Starting at 1900 Crisanto, you can drive either direction a long way and a solid wall of RVs takes up the curb (just a rock’s toss from active railroad tracks). Still, the solution may be a bit on the small side. With 300 RVs across the city, the church is offering “a handful” of spaces each night. Two other area churches have expressed interest in taking on RVs themselves. The idea? By the end of the decade, among the three church lots, perhaps as many as 60 rigs could be accommodated.

Like a lot of other problems facing mankind today, it’s one where there seems to be more problem than solution.



15 Thoughts to “California city tries new approach to “RV homelessness””

  1. Kevin

    Funny thing about judging, what I don’t understand is how so many people, likely some commenting here, have not achieved more. Endowed with so much priveledge, not subject to discrimination, well educated, mainly products of 2 parent, stable and middle class or better households and yet so many earning less than $200k/year with less than $2.5 million in owned assets. Unbelievable “losers” compared to others from similar circumstances who have achieved so much more. I used to pity you but now understand that you simply are lazy or irresponsible for being part of the 50% underachivers.

  2. Ianto Jones

    Some of us truly are just poor.
    My wife and I worked for decades, before becoming severely disabled (I worked for decades *while* severely disabled, but my condition is progressive).
    I have a small pension, and we both earned SSDI by regularly paying in over the course of our careers.

    She has MS, and requires a mild climate.

    Our apartment raised our rent by triple digits, annually, for seven years (doubling our original rent); this was unsustainable on a fixed income.

    We have been very fortunate. We were able to use Craigslist to trade my wheelchair minivan straight -across for a 30yo 23ft Class C (fully maintained, and decent-looking with its fibreglass hull).
    It is four feet longer than the minivan.

    We were additionally fortunate to find a long-term space in a “mixed” RV park (daily/weekly tourists in front, ‘permanent residents’ in back).

    We were lower-middle Class white collar workers.

    In two to three years, we will have paid off our medical debts, and be able to upgrade our rig to something from this century.

    We endure seeing people on the RV forums refer to undesirable Permanent Residents in their “unsightly” older rigs.

    We endure seeing ourselves lumped in with the mentally ill and addicted.

    Truth is, if we hadn’t found a park that was willing to overlook our older rig (it’s presentable, and maintained), *we* would be street or Walmart parking while we get this debt cleared (paying 65% of our income to it, done in 2020).

    At that point we will be fine, but – the judgment and condescension *hurts*.

    There but for a major illness go most of you.

  3. Daniel D Holcomb

    The problem of an increasing blight of RVers seeking a place to stay in and around towns is a symptom of a larger problem. It is not something anyone can begin to fix, and it is growing. The larger problem is an upside-down social system where “all for one , and one for all” is not even a passing thought. Look at healthy societies where the lowest among them are looked after, a higher education, health care and a pension are a given. And people there enjoy one of the highest standards of living on the planet.

  4. Lynn Wagoner

    I know it’s probably uncaring of me to say but I would think it’s
    about time to leave the State of California.

    1. Jim

      Personally I think all homeless should move to California;s ” sanctuary ” cities. Let them take care of the less fortunate.

  5. Henry Fusco

    woe the haves judging the people less fortunate. How do you know they are tweekers? Many retired or just poor people are forced to live in an Rv to save money.
    How about trying to find suitable places to stay? Industrial spaces, empty parking lots, ballparks etc.

  6. Lydia Bishop

    Not all “homeless” are homeless due to not being able to afford rent. Many are drug addicted vagrants taking advantage of misguided social policies of “tolerance” in cities like Seattle and Portland. Just yesterday I saw an old motorhome driving down I-5. It was literally held together with heavy straps and bungee cords – stern to bow! I’ve seen several like that parked or on the move. How much longer those vehicles will remain functional is anybody’s guess.

  7. Scott Williams

    Long Beach, CA has “solved” its problem with the homeless parking their RVs on city streets and dumping their trash and tanks on city streets. The city has BANNED the parking of “oversize” vehicles. Oversize is defined as over 20 or 22 feet depending on whether you are reading the ordinance or the signs, 84 inches wide or 80 inches tall. You can obtain a permit for three days. They are free but you can only get 20 permits a year.

  8. Tina GAllagher

    I think the church has the right idea. It’s a start. The problem isn’t just one-sided, and it’s going to take more than one idea for a long-term solution. Perhaps the city has an unused area the RV’s could be parked during the day (with permit and the owner/occupants following the rules) while the owner/occupants go to school or work. Those with dilapidated rigs could sign a contract to fix them up on the outside so they’re not an eyesore, get them roadworthy, etc. The problem here and in other places didn’t happen overnight, and it’s not going away overnight, either.

  9. Alex

    Even airline pilots can’t afford to live in the LAX area. While their permanent residence may be elsewhere, between flights, many of them live in RVs – for younger regional airline pilots, monthly apartment rents exceed their income!

    1. Mick49

      As a retired pilot for a major carrier, I remember probation pay being dismal at best in the 70’s. Plus, we were all sent to New York to cover 3 airports. Solution: Show up in uniform at your local food stamp (EBT, I think they call it now) en masse, in uniform. Call the LA Times so you get coverage. I bet you get a raise. Good luck guys! My starting wage at a commuter way back when was $1.65 a flight hour and we only got that because the carrier had hired a lawyer who aspired to be an airline pilot and he filed suit against them. Before that, they paid their copilots

  10. Bill T

    Are these people working in the area and just can’t afford housing? Or are they on some sort of social assistance and don’t want to leave the area to find work and better living conditions where the economy is better.

    1. Mark Birnbaum

      Where is the economy better?

      Unemployment very low, future job growth at 45%. Great weather.
      Income per Capita $56,156 vs US $28,555
      Household Income $100,028 vs US $53,482
      Family Median Income $119,081 vs US $65,443

      Unfortunately, cost of housing in Mountain View is a reflection of supply and demand, which drives the cost of living if you want to live in Mountain View.

      There are many more people who would like to live in New York City and many other nice locales than can afford them. People accept they’ll need to commute.

      It would be nice if the most desirable towns had mobile home/RV parks free or reasonably affordable, but I can understand why they don’t.

      Driving around St. Louis, Detroit, Tulsa and many cities large and small, you’ll see huge tracts of land which could be (re)developed for mobile or temporary/traveler. You could find some with great river, mountain or other views.
      However, there are economic considerations. Would that destination and development bring the well-healed RVers who will spend and boost local economy, or would it bring RVers who consume disproportionate amounts of social services and are incensed when asked to pay a $2 dump fee?

      I would love to park my motorhome in the nicest areas, with great views in the nicest cities. I love Coronado Island, Venice Beach, Seattle, San Fran and many more. Today, by day, I usually pay to park then walk, bike or hop a bus/rail and visit as a tourist.

      Cities need to determine if there is economic value to them of supporting areas for motorhomes/RVs, for a short term visitor or a longer term resident (and maybe worker). Until then, by “camping” on their public lands I am an illegal squatter: a person who settles on land or occupies property without title, right, or payment of rent.

      1. Liz

        Elkhardt, Indiana for one. They are begging for workers in the RV industry. Go hit up Salvation Army for assistance to get there. Either you want to improve your conditions, or you want to remain in the destitute RV community that accepts you & the fact that you want to continue your “no rules/responsibility” lifestyle. Those that want to leave the streets/derelict RVs do so, accepting services/housing. Cities need to focus $$ on providing services and group shelters. Others can’t shake the lifestyle, due to mental health, addiction, alcoholism, or resistance to reintegrating back into working class society. Everyone has choices – it’s those that refuse to make the choices that will bring them off the streets that ensure their failure to support themselves. When I look at trash & needles, bottles & cans, used clothing heaped up around tents, on sidewalks & streets around derelict rigs, it makes my blood boil because their personal responsibility to pick up after themselves is missing. Why should they? Rules are not for them.

        1. Lydia

          Amen! Tweakers will be tweakers whether in tents or derelict RVs.

Comments are closed.