PROPOSED TOPIC: Homeless Vehicle Living
PROPOSED QUESTION: Should the City of McMinnville’s policy be changed to allow otherwise homeless individuals to live in their vehicles?
The article “Residents Complain of Mobile Homeless Village” in the Yamhill Valley News-Register, provides evidence that homeless people are living in worn-out RVs right here in McMinnville. The article shows this is a problem in need of an effective solution. The Jan. 11, 2018 article focuses on what homeowners have to say about the recreational vehicles parked in their neighborhood. They are angry that it is happening, but the article reports current law does not prohibit it. People can legally park their “mobile” homes on Doran Drive for 72 hours at a time. After that, they must move the vehicle to a new location at least 350 feet away. The article goes on to say the city has no answer to the problem and officials do not want to anything without first doing a lot of research. The information in the news story shows how timely this topic is and why a policy is needed.
The article previously mentioned above focuses on RV living mostly from the perspective of the community at large, rather than considering what is best for the homeless individuals. To better understand the issue, I looked for sources with a different perspective
I found a helpful article called “RV Camping Has Exploded on Portland Streets,” that was published in an alternative magazine called the Portland Mercury. The article explains how Portland, Oregon is currently trying to remedy the problem of people living in their vehicles, in part by using Oregon state law that deals with “peace officers.” That is, by the police department towing away offending RVs. Residents of the vehicles must pay the impound fee to get their vehicle back. Doing this puts people on the streets because they do not have money to pay the fee. It also leaves the city with a bill of up to $1000 for each occurrence. The article shows how Portland current policy works and that this is not an effective solution to the problem. Knowing what is not working is helpful will provide more background for my argument.
Online, I found a Portland, Oregon website, called JOIN, which exists, in part, to help homeless individuals transition to more permanent homes. Though the site does not focus specifically on those living in RVs, it helps visitors to the site that are living in cars transition to more permanent housing.. The values and principles section of the website talks about the need for respect and relationship, not just rules, when helping people. It says it is critical to emphasize the importance of homeless people being actively involved in changing their own lives rather than just being told what to do. The website says that is the only way they will succeed long term. The website is helpful in that it will help me learn more about how others are successfully helping the homeless and familiarize me to elements that should be integrated into local policy
The last source I would like to mention falls somewhere between the earlier ones. It is a book called “Otherwise Homeless” by Michele Wakin. In the book, Wakin provides a wealth of information about the living dynamics of those who live in RVs and the issues and personal struggles the face. “Vehicle living,” as she calls it, is different from what we usually think of as homelessness. She writes that it is about more than housing. It is about public space and who can be in it. She talks about the needs that living in a vehicle meet, like safety and privacy, needs that are often lacking in other types of shelters.
One of the most important parts of the book for my research is the part where Wakin tells about how anti-homeless laws may violate several U.S. constitutional rights and she gives examples of how that happens along with discussing policies and practices that Santa Barbara and surrounding areas have developed. Knowledge of what has been successful elsewhere is invaluable to my research. I will attempt to interview her to ask about new insights she has gained in her role as not only a researcher, but advocate for the homeless.
I also plan to interview Kay Sawyer, the executive director of Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission in McMinnville. I have read some of Sawyer’s articles in the organization’s newsletter and she knows what is happening locally in the homeless community. She can provide me information specific to Yamhill County
In gathering information for my project, there are several different places I would like to go to do some observation in McMinnville. First, I will go to Doran Drive since it is the area that was most recently mentioned in local newspaper. There I can to see, and hopefully hear, the stories of those who live in what the News-Register article said is a “mobile homeless village.”
I am passionate about the topic of homelessness and have been for quite some time. Before I moved to Oregon I regularly volunteered at a homeless shelter. My experiences there made me see the world differently. My husband was out of work for a time and we watched our savings dwindle as we used it to cover living expenses for our family of six. Every month I met people at the shelter, some who were residents and others who were living on the streets and came in only for a meal. It made me more appreciate the fact that even though my husband and I were going through some tough times financially, we were still blessed with a roof over our heads.
The need for shelter is a basic human need, and in answering my proposed question, I hope to find a way for more people to have that sense of place, even if it is only a car to sleep or an old rundown RV. I would very much like to have a part in finding a way for that to happen, with a policy that is agreeable to those who live in houses and apartments as well as those that own a vehicle that they call home.
Henderson, T. (2018, Jan. 11). Residents complain of mobile homeless village. Yamhill Valley News-Register. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/yatbym3b
VanderHart, D. (2017, July 12). RV camping has exploded on Portland streets. Portland Mercury. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/yavebgqb
Wakin, M. (2014). Otherwise homeless: Vehicle living and the culture of homelessness. Colorado: First Forum Press.