LA Times Opinion: ‘I’m 73 and live in a van. …already received a warning in Ocean Beach … It feels like there’s no place for me in California anymore’

by on September 11, 2019 · 11 comments

in Homelessness, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Editordude: The following opinion piece was published in the LA Times two days ago and it’s already making the rounds on the net. It’s by LaVonne Ellis, a former correspondent for ABC Radio News Networks.

By LaVonne Ellis / Los Angeles Times / Sep. 9, 2019

I wake up early these days, when morning light outlines the blackout curtains and floods the skylight above my bed. After washing up with baby wipes and donning clean clothes, I slide open a curtain to reveal the front seats and windshield of the van that is my home, and check the back one last time to make sure everything is secure. Then I crawl into the driver’s seat and turn the key.

As soon as possible every morning, I move from my night spot. It’s important — I don’t want to draw police attention. Living in a vehicle is against the law in San Diego and a growing number of cities, including Los Angeles. Since the San Diego law took effect in May, RVers and van dwellers like me have been on edge, constantly asking each other what they know about the rules, where they park, have they heard that anything might change? No one seems to have a sure answer.

I’ve already received a warning in an Ocean Beach park that several other rigs also used. As I was pulling out, I looked back and saw the cop working his way down the line. I wondered where those people would go. Now that I’m in the system, a ticket may be next. I can’t risk having to pay a fine.

The officer gave me a flier with information about “safe” parking lots where I could stay overnight — as long as I enroll for social services leading to permanent housing. I consider signing up, until I hear from someone who did. He tells me a murder was recently committed across the street from the lot where he parks. I don’t sign up.

The government has classified me and other RV and van dwellers as homeless, but that’s not how I see myself. When I started this journey nearly six years ago, the goal was to see America. But on my Social Security check, I couldn’t afford to both travel and pay rent. I chose travel.

I’m 73. I want to be on the road as long as my health holds out. I would travel more if I could stretch that monthly check further, which is one reason I keep coming back to San Diego. I have family here and a history, nearly 20 years as a resident of a traditional “sticks and bricks” apartment. I like knowing my way around, and the ocean breeze is cool in the summer. But each time I return, the vibe is a little less welcoming, a little more hostile.

For the balance of the article, please go here.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Vern September 11, 2019 at 2:12 pm
Oldob September 11, 2019 at 2:51 pm

A blind man could see where this “opinion piece” was headed. All that bs build-up only to land on all the reasons you have to set up camp near the beaches of San Diego. There are murders in ocean beach too, you know. Might be safer in the lots that the city has set up so that you can legally live in your van.


ZZ September 11, 2019 at 11:27 pm

That’s true, but I also think the article made many good points.


Rick September 12, 2019 at 9:54 am

I’m sorry this gentleman’s life didn’t turn out as perhaps he would have liked. The article mentions he has family here in OB or San Diego not sure. Either way why not park the van legally on the street and sleep instead with them, even on the floor or couch. We all have freedom to choose various career paths, save for retirement, save for a permanent living space, be a risk taker in business and or the stock market. Obviously this can take some sacrifice and discipline. I realize health issues can financially potentially be devastating. I guess that’s a good reason to have health insurance and get on medicare at 65. I have found we in OB are very tolerant, just not of bad behavior. Over the years while traveling I’ve meet expatriates in both Thailand and Panama. One can still get by alright on a very small income stream in either country. I know this personality as one of my family members is doing just this. Living or permanently camping in public parks or on streets is not a long-term solution for the individual or the residents that live here. My best to this older American.


Val September 12, 2019 at 10:51 am

“But each time I return, the vibe is a little less welcoming, a little more hostile.” Because we have all grown tired of it. Park in the safe lots that are provided of you. Period. At the very least, there are restrooms for you there. I’m tired of walking my neighborhood and seeing gatorade bottles full of piss.


GML September 12, 2019 at 12:20 pm

My biggest issue with this piece is the reason for not using one of the safe lots.

“I consider signing up, until I hear from someone who did. He tells me a murder was recently committed across the street from the lot where he parks. I don’t sign up.”

Unfortunately there has been a lot of violent crime in areas like Ocean Beach, including murders. This is not stopping him from still parking here and there are a lot less protections in place for him in a safe lot.


Daniel September 12, 2019 at 10:09 pm

Back in January an RV by my house at Robb field dumped their full tank of poo and pee a few yards away from my front door. They had been living there for about a month with two dogs and two kids who were constantly breaking things, hassling people, and their dogs were vicious and loud. Neighbors called the cops on them multiple times and I guess after the fifth or sixth visit, they finally got the hint and left. Of course not before the felt it was ok to dump their “loads” less than 100 yards from our beautiful dog beach and river. I’ve noticed the past few years that the frequency of seeing human poop, needles, pipes, or smelling pee in the park and beach has grown significantly. I don’t want to live in a place that looks or feels like skid row or, San Francisco and I’ve worked and sacrificed a lot of my time to pursue my American dream. 25+% of my hard earned 50-60 hour week goes to taxes that are supposed to provide me with an infrastructure that permits me to pursue MY chosen way of life . Certainly I expect that to involve being free from hazardous materials like needles, crack pipes, and feces when I walk to the public beach or want to enjoy a day at the park. My neighbors and I paid for that park!!! San Diego is a dime of a city and one of the most popular places to live in the US. People have to work they’re asses off just to barely scrape by. It’s not fair that other Americans feel they have the right to literally take a shit on our neighborhood because they made poor choices. Get em out, it’s disgusting and wrong. The balls to complains about us taking our hard earned tax dollars to provide him a lot to live his lifestyle FOR FREE makes me sick!!!! Shameful, ungrateful, disgusting….Uggg so over it.


Dr. Jack Hammer September 14, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Yup. There’s a guy with a tow camper there now. Going on about 7 days… Vermont license plates too.


Karol September 13, 2019 at 7:03 am

We need to address affordable housing and the need for a more efficient police response.

I suggest that we help police prioritize by asking the city to add a form that allows us to report the biggest, most disruptive and illegal activities here

This will help police efficiently prioritize their work and address the most serious issues first, instead of handling violations in chronological order.


Balance September 14, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Maybe the city could step up enforcement of the bad acts campers do instead of kicking them out. The elderly are the most vulnerable, some people don’t have a choice but to live in there rv or van. If people don’t have compassion for the most vulnerable I don’t have compassion for them even if they work a 100 hours aweek. At the end of the day they will have what they need and people less fortunate will not. If people were better at coming up with solutions instead of being upset then about how much harder they work than the next fellow then we might have answers. I’m disabled but have family so I’m not on the street but my worst fear is I will be, can’t get ssi cause of my age and will probably be crawling around if I were homeless. Ob is my home of 20 plus years now and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It breaks my heart to see folks on the street. Try living one night on the sidewalk and see how it feels. Lack of empathy is a social issue that must be fixed. Is it the Flouride causing it? I have no clue. I think anyone who is disabled should get a free pass since they already have it rouf. Can we make a fund for those folks to have a parking spot in ob? I will create it myself with go fund me if anyone else likes the idea. Telling someone to go far away to park is costly and polutive to the enviroment. If people really care about others then we will find a valid solution but until that happens people will continue to focus on themselves. Nothing wrong with making a good living but stop picking on the most vulnerable.


Chris September 14, 2019 at 8:21 pm

I think in the case of this individual, there really were some bad choices made that have nothing to do with the cost of living. Your point of valid but there really are two sides to the coin here.


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