Just like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and that four pound Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Dusty bought for me on Valentine’s Day, all good things must come to an end.
What the hell does that have to do with the future of van living?
It’s becoming apparent that counties all over the United States are starting to crack down on people living in their vehicles.
Now, more than ever, people are taking notice of suspicious vehicles parked on the street and are beginning to report them.
And it’s only a matter of time before it happens to you.
Why Is This Happening?
Well, I believe the answer is twofold. First of all, we have a huge homelessness problem in the United States.
I live in Portland Oregon which is a beautiful city with a relatively mild climate. While it does rain a lot, it rarely snows and almost never freezes. It’s perfect for outdoor activities and the food can’t be beaten.
Unfortunately what happens in cities like this, is that they attract people with problems. Younger homeless people love it because the drugs are cheap, and they can make a ton of money stealing bikes. Mentally ill people love it because they can easily beg for money, and the police leave them alone for the most part.
They flock here like moths to a flame because the city is a huge enabler. Portlanders, unlike some other city dwellers, are incredibly kindhearted and want to help everyone. The problem is that they attempt to do it in the worst ways.
Instead of, for example, helping people find homes, and get them off of drugs, the mayor made it legal to camp on city streets.
Now we have tents and trash piles EVERYWHERE.
That is not even remotely a solution to the problem.
Instead of giving some tough love, cleaning up junkies, and forcing them to become productive members of society, we’re basically rewarding them.
It’s like telling a teenager that hates to bathe that it’s totally OK to stop brushing their teeth. Sure, they may get instant gratification, but their fucking gums are going to start to rot.
Letting people sleep in the streets is not an effective solution.
Giving them real-life mental and medical help is.
While I would love to say that van living would be a great solution for these people, it just won’t work without the additional help of getting them clean. Too often I see pockets in the city that are filled with run down RVs full of junkies. You can tell they’re up to no good because they never actually move their RVs and they are surrounded by stolen belongings.
These aren’t your typical van dwellers just looking to save money or live simple, these are people that have every intention of getting high all day, every day.
They steal things, don’t work, and take shits out in the middle of sidewalks. And those are the good ones.
The really bad ones manufacture meth and accidentally set their RV on fire creating a hazmat zone in an otherwise beautiful neighborhood.
Trust me, I want these people gone just as bad as everyone else, but creating ordinances outlawing sleeping in your vehicle isn’t the way to do it.
That’s like saying “we want school shootings to stop, so we’re going to stop allowing all white males between the ages of 16-24 on the premises.”
That type of thinking sucks because it punishes all the other people out there that have done nothing wrong. It’s an easy way for a city to say:
“Fuck you, you’re not my problem, now move along.”
I read a heartbreaking story the other day about a family of four that was found dead in a van in a parking lot. It was a mother, father, and their two young children.
Now, they didn’t kill themselves or anything like that, they just backed up against some hedges in a parking lot and blocked their exhaust pipe. Their van filled with carbon monoxide and they died in their sleep.
Initially, I was really outraged by this story, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was just shitty luck.
These weren’t people that chose van life. These were people that had to live in their van to give their children some sort of roof over their heads. Had they been given the resources that they needed to survive, they never would have chosen that option for themselves or their children.
And now they’re dead, and that’s a shame.
Of course, it’s not just the homelessness epidemic that’s behind the recent crackdown. Once people stopped buying real estate and started buying tiny homes, things started to change. Suddenly new ordinances were being put in place regarding homes on wheels.
What was once OK, or at least overlooked was now getting serious scrutiny by the people that make the rules.
The Man Wants To Keep You Down
Those of us that aren’t smoking crack all day and live outside of traditional society just don’t generate revenue.
That REALLY seems to piss off Uncle Sam.
Remember my Stealth Living 101 post where I addressed how the people paying property tax generally won’t want a family living in a school bus in front of their house?
Well, that one is kind of a big deal.
Towns HATE the new tiny home culture because it’s showing a shift in how people buy and consume. And for some big business that is very troubling.
Think about it, if you’re harvesting rainwater, using a composting toilet, eating food you’ve grown yourself, and utilizing solar energy, no one can make money off of you.
How do they get us to start buying these needless services again? By lobbying local government into creating ordinances that make it illegal to do so!
As much as I want to believe that human beings are mostly good and have each other’s backs, sometimes it’s just too hard to imagine.
There was a story about a woman in Cape Coral, Florida a few years back that owned her own house but lived totally off the grid. The city fought tooth and nail to make sure everything she was doing considered illegal. They kicked her out of that house countless times and even went so far as to have her animals taken away.
All because they were scared of losing money…
Now, their claim is that she was using the sewage system without paying for it, but the fact is, this woman knew about off-grid living. She had done it before and took the proper safety precautions. Sure, nab her for the sewer issue, but what these guys were doing to this woman was extreme harassment.
You see, it scares big businesses when we stop buying what they’re selling so they resort to thug tactics and harass widows in Florida. It’s kind of sick.
Will VanDwelling Survive?
The Instagram #VanLife crowd will probably survive just fine. Sure, they’ll have to sell the $40k Sprinter they bought for that South American road trip, but they’ll make back a good chunk of change on it.
For the rest of us, we’ll have to get a little more sneaky.
We will probably start seeing less full timers in RVs. And unless converted school buses are hidden away on private property they will be towed immediately in most municipalities.
Vans, like my Ford Econoline, will probably rise in popularity for a bit because they can be very stealthy when outfitted correctly.
After that, it’ll be down to cars and station wagons…
…but by that point, people will move on to the next thing.
As for me, I’ll try to ride it out as long a possible and then move onto the next thing. There is a ton of international travel I would like to get out of the way before I even consider settling down.
At this point, I can’t even imagine a life outside the van.
And considering all the opportunities I’ve been afforded because of it, why would I want to?
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