California divided on approach to homeless issue

August 24, 2017

RV camping is one of the more popular styles of camping in America, with some 30 million RV enthusiasts nationwide. It’s considered a very flexible camping option, doubling as both a camper and a vehicle in many cases.

However, for some, an RV isn’t just a camping option, it’s their primary residence, the roof over their heads, and it has been for years. These individuals are often considered homeless, despite the fact that they have a bed to sleep in. Recently, there has been tension on how to approach RV usage among the homeless, and it’s proving to be a divisive issue within California.

Long Beach is the latest city looking to restrict RV parking in their city by requiring parked vehicles to have permits. The permit would allow RV owners to park for 72 hours at a time, but there would be exceptions for disabled individuals and for commercial businesses.

However, these permits would only be available to those with residences on the block, and as such it would not apply to the homeless. Violating the regulation could result in fines or towing.

The director of public works for Long Beach said that “irresponsible” RV owners who leave their large vehicles on the streets for a long time are the reason this regulation was proposed.

“In some parking-impacted communities, we have folks that will just leave their RVs there for days and days and days, taking up a number of those parking spaces,” Beck said. “Many times they’ll park on corners and it creates safety hazards relative to line of sight for vehicles that are driving around.”

This regulation would have a big impact on the homeless population of the city, at least those that live in RVs. Gas is expensive, and having to move their vehicles routinely will add up.

In contrast to this proposal, Los Angeles is looking to create “safe parking” locations for their RV-dwelling homeless population. The city hopes to create safe, secure parking near public restrooms for these RVs, but the progress has been slow so far.

This is a pilot program created by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti as part of a new parking policy that restricts where and when people living in cars can park on residential streets. The policy went into effect in February and prohibits people from living in their cars in certain areas from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

This restriction expires next summer, and the city hopes to develop a comprehensive program to help with the homeless issue in the meantime.

One of the ways that they’ve strived to develop the program is through the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, which is reaching out for homeless service contractors to operate parking programs. However, not a single qualified application has come through so far.

“There are a few reasons that service providers didn’t apply — they did not have a parking lot to accommodate the program or they were anxious because of recent neighborhood opposition to other site-based programs,” Carolyn Pruitt, a LAHSA spokesperson said. “As a result, the coordination and development of potential lots has been time-intensive.”

Hopefully, these two California cities can find a solution that benefits everyone and doesn’t build resentment amongst the community. Unfortunately, that’s proving to be a tall order.