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Motorhomeless: No Place To Park Means No Place To Live

One third of homeless people in King County live out of their cars.  People with large vehicles like RVs and even buses tend to cluster in industrial areas -- until they’re asked to move on. 

Jennifer Smith lives in her RV with her 15-month-old daughter, Willow. “Its basically got a bus back end and a truck front end,” Smith said.

Her vehicle has been parked in this spot in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle for three weeks, but she’s lived in the area along North Northlake Way since April. She was ticketed once and received several warnings. Legally a car can’t be parked in the same spot for more than 72 hours in Seattle.

But neighbors say some 15 RV’s have been parked along this stretch of Lake Union and they don’t seem to budge. Until a recent notice.

“It was basically saying that if we didn’t move our vehicles within 24 hours, it was going to get impounded.  Period," she said.  "And we’ve just been kind of working with the police and the city and all that stuff to give us a little bit more time.”

The city provided gas and car batteries for RV’s in need and gave the campers until July 29 to move. 

But the same question remains: Where?

Sarah Steilen is with a local advocacy group that’s working to find someplace safe.

“We obviously don’t want to see these families out on the streets; taking away their vehicles is not going to take away the people," Steilen said.

"They’re not going to disappear just because their vehicles are gone.”

For the city’s part, they are working with RV residents through their Road to Housing program to help people get services they need, like healthcare or temporary shelter and hopefully break the cycle of bouncing around.

Smith wants to move to a shelter where she can park her RV, but she realizes that’s only temporary.

“I’m afraid that there’s not going to be a solid place for us to move to for a while.” 

And if the shelter doesn’t work out?  Smith and others could end up parked -- in another neighborhood.