Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Everything you need to know

Okay, I've had everything you need to know in two sentences and everything you need to know in one sentence. Now comes a case of everything you need to know in just one phrase.

But getting there takes a bit of an introduction.

Some years ago, my wife and I seriously investigated the possibility of a version of living on the road: buying and living in an RV or what was then called a fifth-wheel for at least a few years if not longer. This was a time when my wife, an RN, could get work pretty much anywhere with the Traveling Nurse Corps and I could do odd jobs; plus there was a possibility I could do a newspaper column about politics and our travels.

Well, the column possibility fell through and we ultimately gave up the whole idea because try as I might, I couldn't make the finances work out in a way that would allow my wife to work any significantly lesser amount of time. So while the ideas of the travel and the seeing/living in different parts of the country were attractive, the bottom line was that we would be giving up a fair amount of security without the intended gain of more free time. It just didn't seem worth it. In the years since, the dream has not died, but the practicalities are even more against it.

There are people who pursue that dream, and more power to them. The point here, however, is that for other people, a good and increasing number of them in fact, making an RV your home is not a dream or a lifestyle, it's a necessity. From the NY Times:
Los Angeles - Every day, Diane Butler and her husband park their two hand-painted R.V.’s in a lot at the edge of Venice Beach here, alongside dozens of other rickety, rusted campers from the 1970s and ’80s. During the day, she sells her artwork on the boardwalk. When the parking lot closes at sunset, she and the other R.V.-dwellers drive a quarter-mile inland to find somewhere on the street to park for the night.

Their nomadic existence might be ending, though. The Venice section of Los Angeles has become the latest California community to enact strict new regulations limiting street parking and banning R.V.’s from beach lots — regulations that could soon force Ms. Butler, 58, to leave the community where she has lived for four decades. ...

Southern California, with its forgiving weather, has long been a popular destination for those living in vehicles and other homeless people. And for decades, people living in R.V.’s, vans and cars have settled in Venice, the beachfront Los Angeles community once known as the “Slum by the Sea” and famous for its offbeat, artistic culture.

Yet even as the economic downturn has forced more people out of their homes and into their cars, vehicle-dwellers are facing fewer options, with more communities trying to push them out.
What we're talking about here is people who are homeless - or, if you prefer, "semi-homeless," since they do have some sort of shelter - who are living in RVs because that's the best housing they can manage. As law professor and activist on homelessness issues Gary Blasi was quoted as saying,
most people choose to live in vehicles only when the alternative is sleeping in a shelter or on the street.

“The idea of carefree vagabonds is statistically false,” Professor Blasi said. “More often, these are people who lived in apartments in Venice before they lived in R.V.’s. The reason for losing housing is usually the loss of a job or some health care crisis.”
Neil Donovan of the National Coalition for the Homeless echoed that, saying that
vehicle-dwellers often end up on the street after their vehicles are towed or become inoperable. When his organization surveyed tent camps in California, they found that many residents had come from R.V.’s.
But why is this crackdown happening in Venice, "the 'Slum by the Sea' ... famous for its offbeat, artistic culture?" Why now, after "decades" of van-dwellers settling in Venice? Well, here comes that phrase, the one that explains it all in just three words, with the emphasis obviously added:
In the past, bohemian Venice was tolerant of vehicle-dwellers, but, increasingly, the proliferation of R.V.’s in this gentrifying neighborhood has prompted efforts to remove them.
And there you have it. The "better sorts" are moving in, in search of cheaper housing and good investments - and we all know how icky they find the sight of their inferiors.

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