My Car IS My Castle

by Andy Wade —

Photo by Don Hankins - Creative Commons Licence

The debate about whether or not it should be legal to sleep/live in one’s car seems to come up fairly frequently. I know here in Hood River regular rounds are made to make sure those motor homes parked on the street aren’t actually being used as homes. And yet, we have no permanent shelters in the Gorge so where is one to live? I’ve known friends in the greater Portland area forced to move nightly just so they are not harassed at much by the police. And yet the problem is not the police, when they are conscientiously and politely enforcing the law, the problem is the law itself. What does it mean to adapt our local laws to address a very real situation that both recognizes the concerns of homeowners and those without housing who are trying to survive a very difficult situation?

One community in California is currently wrestling with this issue:

Compassion was the watchword of a free-wheeling community forum Thursday night to discuss the prickly problem of Palo Altans living in their cars. Organized at the behest of the city council to pinpoint alternatives to a proposed ban on vehicle habitation, the two-hour discussion at University Church drew more than 50 people, from concerned homeowners to several people who rely on their cars for shelter.
“I think we need to use our compassion and intelligence to handle this,” said resident Dana St. George. “I think a town as intelligent as Palo Alto can come up with a solution.”

I’m thinking that we in the Gorge are also able to come up with intelligent and compassionate solutions for those living outside. Those who volunteered at our shelter last year were able to meet face-to-face with some of the homeless in our community. We were able to learn first-hand of the difficulties of living outside in our community and realize that the majority of folks on the street are not dangerous criminals to be feared, but regular folk in a bad situation.

We all need help from time to time. A healthy community is not one that is only healthy on the surface, but one that recognizes the needs, concerns, and possibilities of every individual and integrates that diversity into our relationships, laws, and casual interactions. We may not be able to all agree that housing is a right, but perhaps we can agree that transitional housing and affordable housing are necessary elements to a healthy, vibrant community. In the mean time, we need to work toward compassionate responses to residents of the Gorge merely trying to survive.

Homeless On Wheels – Willamette Week
New Homeless, Often Living in Vehicles, On the Rise

The views expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of all partners of the Hood River Warming Shelter Coalition.