The Usual RV/Trailer Suspects

Over the course of the last two years, the same seven or eight dilapidated RVs and trailers have rotated their residences through roughly a ten-block area of my neighborhood.

Some of the stays last months, others weeks. A couple rigs remained at the same spot for over a year.

Then one day, for no reason I can fathom, a green sticker warning of an imminent towing appears. But not all the rigs receive the stickers. That’s what I don’t fathom. Why some avoid city action and others don’t is a total mystery.

Once a sticker does appear, the rigs somehow manage to disappear…only to re-materialize a few streets away. They often return to the same spot, parked—if parked is the word—in front of a house, business, church or apartment building, typically near a park or creek. It’s a crazy cat and mouse game.

Sometimes the rigs have handwritten signs posted on them: “Waiting for parts, please don’t call the police” ; “At work. If there’s a problem call ***-***-****; “I’m a veteran” ; “Trying to find housing, please don’t call police” ; “I’m a Christian.”

I read the signs and wonder if they are truthful.

Some of the inhabitants run tight ships around their rigs. Others don’t and accumulate inexplicable shit. The other day I saw one man sorting branches leaning against the side of his trailer. Another has ten ladders roped to the top of his RV.

Most have generators running outside their rigs and you can hear them from a blocks away. Imagine living across from that noise for six months. That would drive me insane.

It’s a marvel to me these rigs aren’t vandalized by angry neighbors sick of it all. Maybe some of them are.

Some of the inhabitants are destroying the riparian areas of a local creek. Some are terrible neighbors. Others are not. All these rigs do not have legal tags. One has an ancient motorized scooter parked outside and I often see him puttering around the neighborhood searching for cans and bottles. He also transports propane tanks on his scooter. It’s always interesting seeing him weave through traffic with the tanks bungeed to the scooter.

The city should have opened a bare bones RV park for these sort of rigs years ago. If I recall, there were plans to do so a while back at the Expo Center on Port of Portland land but the Port nixed it and city commissioners caved in. Other cities have constructed these ad hoc parks and they cost a fraction of tiny home villages.

This sort of RV/trailer living is going on all over Portland and Oregon and the rest of the country, This is not the kind of RV/trailer living as depicted in Nomadland, the book and movie.

None of the people living out of these rigs are directly contacted by service providers. They are never counted. I do believe the city of Portland operates or operated a program where a septic waste hauler visited various RV/trailer encampments and offered to drain holding tanks for free.

I don’t know if the program is still operating. I’ve certainly never seen it in effect around my neighborhood. I thought it was a great idea although others thought it enabled this kind of living. I’d rather have their piss and shit hauled away at taxpayer expense than dumped into the creeks or unlocked dumpsters.

One of the questions I’ve repeatedly asked since writing about the New American Diaspora is: how in the hell do these people obtain these RVs, trailers and buses? Many are 40-50 years old!

I think it’s time I found out. All I have to do is ask their occupants. But in all my hundreds and hundreds of walks past these rotating rigs, I can count on one hand the times I’ve actually seen a person outside one of them.