Los Angeles has witnessed a concerning rise in the prevalence of dilapidated RVs serving as makeshift homes for countless residents. These rundown RV communities, often characterized by dire living conditions, have become a troubling fixture on the westside of LA. Tragically, some have even died within these RVs, succumbing to fires that left many homeless. Now, LA aims to take action and potentially bring RV encampments to a close.
Efforts to tackle this issue gained momentum through initiatives like the Jefferson Trail Rehabilitation Project. On the day of an RV fire, the project cleared an encampment in the vicinity, orchestrating the towing of vehicles, relocating encampment residents to hotels, and implementing deterrents like metal fencing, concrete barricades, and prominent “no parking” signs.
Los Angeles City Council members, including Traci Park, are determined to find solutions that end the RV encampment problem. Beyond the immediate safety concerns, these encampments have detrimentally affected the environment, notably exemplified in the Ballona Wetlands encampment. How the Westside encampment issues are approached will likely become a model for how Los Angeles city and county officials will address the massive and overarching homelessness crisis.
LA’s housing crisis is reflected in the vehicle and RV-based homelessness that impacted about ten thousand Los Angeles county residents in 2019, based on Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority data. Since that data was released, the number has surged, with nearly fourteen thousand people living in cars, vans, and RVs. The increase is rooted in several factors, including government officials’ failure to build substantial housing that meets the needs of residents. Limited housing resources have resulted in skyrocketing rental prices, forcing the vulnerable and poor into life on the streets, building communities among waste in RV neighborhoods.
An additional contributing factor relates to decisions made during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the city opted not to tow vehicles used as homes, fearing exposing more people to COVID-19. After another year of delay, the Los Angeles City Council finally reversed this decision, mainly influenced by growing complaints about fires, accumulating trash, human waste, and discarded needles.
While the initial plan aimed to remove inoperable, dangerous, and unregistered RVs, logistical challenges arose. The project encountered significant delays due to insufficient heavy-duty tow trucks or inexpensive RV storage locations.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass acknowledges that the RV encampment issue remains unresolved but has expressed commitment to finding a solution. The City Council’s recent efforts include drafting an ordinance to regulate RV rentals better, emphasizing publicly parked, rundown RVs, and funding intervention programs for those dealing with vehicular homelessness.
The prevalence of RV encampments highlights the grim and distressing circumstances experienced by many LA residents. Even those with full-time jobs have been impacted by the desperation and despair of the housing crisis, resorting to paying rent to “vanlords” to inhabit substandard RVs. Los Angeles’ RV encampments may meet their end as vehicular homelessness regulations and policies are crafted and enacted.